TRAI chief asserts implementation of a new broadcasting framework with reduced rates

The new framework for broadcasting and cable services would lead to lower prices for TV viewers.

Telecom regulator TRAI on 18 December asserted that the implementation of the new framework for broadcasting and cable services would lead to lower prices for TV viewers, even as it slammed the "misinformation campaign" being carried out by some to fuel "hyperbolic fear" among consumers.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharma said the regulator is working to ensure a "smooth transition" to the new framework without causing any disruption for consumers.

R. S. Sharma, head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), poses for a photograph at his office in New Delhi, March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal

R S Sharma, head of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Image: Reuters

"This is a great framework which has been validated by the highest court of the land, but there are certain stakeholders who are trying to create misconceptions that consumer bills are going to rise. It is bogus," Sharma said without naming anyone.

Slamming the "misinformation campaign", Sharma said that latest framework entailing service quality, interconnection and tariff aspects will reduce overall prices for consumers, raise transparency, and act as a "cleansing exercise".

"Certain stakeholders are trying a perception battle...and creating hyperbolic fear or fear of unknown saying it will increase prices and that consumers will have no choice. This is all baseless," Sharma said.

The regulator has barred fixed fee deals, he said adding that the revenue streams will now be completely synced with the number of viewers of a channel.

"We feel that the fears are being created in the minds of people...with ulterior motive," he said.

Asked if the industry players have approached the regulator seeking extension of stipulated timelines for implemetation of the new framework, Sharma said Trai's efforts are to safeguard consumer interest and that the authority will work out a methodology to ensure smooth transition.

Telecom regulator Trai has already initiated a consumer outreach programme to create user awareness on the nuances of its new tariffQ order and framework for the broadcasting sector.

"Also, on our website we have created certain different packages for different markets to demonstrate that the prices will not increase in any of the markets," Trai Secretary S K Gupta said.

The Supreme Court had recently dismissed a plea challenging the Trai's March, 2017 regulations and tariff order relating to fixation of charges for free and pay channels. The new framework, allows consumers to select and pay only for the channels they wish to view, and requires TV broadcasters to disclose maximum retail price (MRP) of channels individually and that of bouquets.

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