Legal notice to TRAI on RIOs with inflated pay channel prices

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Tamil Nadu Digital Cable TV Operators Association has sent a legal notice to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to issue direction to the pay channel broadcasters not to inflate the prices of their pay channels. The Association, in its notice has clarified that they have supported TRAI’s decision to implement New Tariff Order, 2020 with the view that it will make the Cable TV services more economical for low and medium earning class people.

While clarifying that the Association is not attributing any mala fide intentions to TRAI in issuing NTO 2.0, it sad that it was shocked and surprised to see the conduct and mala fide of the pay channel broadcasters who have wrongly interpreted the New Tariff Order, 2020 and have substantially inflated the prices of the pay channels.It may be recalled here that the implementation of NTO 2.0 has taken a shocking turn when the broadcasters have released Reference Interconnection Offers (RIOs) with inflated prices for their driver channels (GECs and Sports channels in particular) resulting in an additional burden of about 30—35% on the cable television consumer.

The Association has also pointed out that “ most of these pay channel broadcasters are providing their services to the actual customers through various OTT channels wherein the same pay channels are available at much lower costs as compared with Cable TV and broadcasting industry. Hence, this abnormal substantial rise in prices by the broadcasters only for the Cable TV industry will cut the throat of Local Cable Operators and Multi System Operators of the Industry.”It also said that these excessive prices are unbearable for the people of rural areas where the incomes are at comparatively lower side and the same will adversely affect the fundamental right of freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of India to every citizen of this Country. “It is unfortunate that due to this abnormal rise in subscription, many of the poor people of the Country will unable to watch their favorite shows on television and more specifically young generation will unable to grow their capabilities and knowledge through television as the earning members of their respective families will unable to spend on these costly channels at their present income”, he legal notice said.

The Association felt that the loss in subscription base will cause loss to government exchequer as well because the Government of India is charging 18% GST on the Cable TV services. TRAI was hence requested to interfere in the current situation immediately by rejecting the New RIOs published by the Broadcasters and direct them to reduce the prices as the same will cause irreparable loss to the entire industry.

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