Free-to-air channels no longer free: But know how you may still cut bill of your DTH, cable operator

By: | Updated: January 2, 2019 7:45 PM

As per the latest TRAI guidelines, DTH and cable TV operatiors may charge fee to distribute free-to-air channels, but can't mix such channels with the paid channels.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI, DTH, cable TV, free-to-air television channels, pay channels, a-la-carte basis, bouquet of a-la-carte pay channels, network capacity fee, list of MRP of pay channelsYou may now cherry pick the channels you want or may choose a bouquet of channels of your choice.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the distributors of television channels to segregate the retail price charged by the broadcasters for each channel and the network capacity fee the distributors charge to make the channels available to customers. As a result, the distributors may charge fee to distribute free-to-air channels, but can’t mix them with the paid channels.

To restrict the fee on free-to-air channels, the TRAI, in its order said, “No distributor of television channels shall charge any amount, other than the network capacity fee, from its subscribers for subscribing to free-to-air channels or bouquet(s) of free-to-air channels.”

But don’t worry, you may still end up paying less per month as you may now cherry pick the channels you want or may choose a bouquet of channels of your choice. Because, from now on, you would know the price of the channels you want to view as the broadcasters have to publish the retail price of each channel they broadcast, as well as the distributors have to inform the subscribers the network capacity price of each channel that they distribute. Moreover, the network capacity price of a channel cannot be more than the retail broadcast price of the channel, excluding taxes.

So, you may pick the channels you want to view on a-la-carte basis (i.e. stand alone basis) or may subscribe to pack of similar channels of the same or different broadcasters that the distributors offer as a bouquet. However, the broadcasters can’t include in bouquets a channel having retail broadcast price of more than Rs 19 per month. So, you may only subscribe channels with MRP of more than Rs 19 – like JAN TV PLUS, Topper TV, NHK World Premium – on a-la-carte basis, while most broadcasters have brought down the MRP of channels to Rs 19. What is more pleasing that many channels are available for Re 1 or even below.

While distributors of television channels would charge a monthly rental amount of maximum Rs 130 (excluding taxes) per month from a subscriber for subscribing a network capacity of 100 SD channels, the rental for a bouquet of 25 channels would be maximum Rs 20 per month (excluding taxes). All the distributors have to declare their monthly rentals, so that subscribers may choose a distributor from whom they want to avail the services. But there will be a capping on discounts and the MRP of bouquets of pay channels would not be less than 85 per cent of the sum of maximum retail price of the a-la-carte pay channels forming part of the bouquet.

Despite capping on discounts on bouquets to 15 per cent, which otherwise was as high as up to 75 per cent, the monthly bill may actually come down as subscribers would now be able to choose their channels, which won’t be more than 50 channels, rather than getting about 250 channels most of which are unnecessary for a subscriber.

So, go through the list of MRP of pay channels and select what you want to view by January 31, 2019, till which date you would get the present services uninterrupted, as TRAI in its statement last week said, “All existing packs/plans/bouquets to the subscribers will continue uninterrupted till January 31, 2019. No service provider to disconnect any signal or feed to any MSO/LCO (local cable operator)/subscriber till January 31, 2019.”

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