Media and telecom sector regulator TRAI has amended its 2017 tariff order — which came into effect a year ago — introducing a new price-cap of Rs 12 per pay channel, down from Rs 19 earlier.
It also introduced new safeguards and conditions to curtail the practice of forcing unwanted channels upon consumers. However, these are unlikely to force any change in existing pack prices or structures.
The highlight of the amendments is the bringing down of maximum pay channel price to Rs 12 from Rs 19. This will bring immediate relief to HD channel consumers, as most of the SD channels are already priced at Rs 12 or less.
TRAI also introduced two new rules for the protecting consumers from being forced to buy unwanted channels.
The first one states that the total price of the individual channels in any package or bouquet cannot be more than 1.5 times the pack price.
In other words, if a pack comprising 8 channels is priced at Rs 50, then the total price of all the channels in that pack — taken individually — cannot be more than Rs 75.
However, this rule is unlikely to cause any major problems for existing channel packs due to the bringing down of maximum price to Rs 12 from Rs 19 earlier.
Even though the 1.5-times rule would have made many current channel packs unworkable, the reduction of maximum price to Rs 12 from Rs 19 has ensured that in almost all cases, current packs can continue unchanged in the new situation.
The new rules are both good news and bad news for consumers, who were hoping that they would bring down channel prices drastically.
The Rs 12 cap will indeed bring down the prices of popular channels by 37%. However, the prices of all other channels will remain untouched, even with all the other rules that have been brought in.
Another segment of users who will benefit from the new rules are those that have more than one TV connection at their homes.
The TRAI Tariff Order has been amended to introduce a new rule that caps the network charge levied on multiple connections to a maximum of Rs 61.20, including GST.
At present, most cable and DTH operators charge Rs 153 as network fee on each connection within the same household.
Another relief that may help some users is that the Rs 153 basic network fee now gives them 200 channels instead of 100 channels.
However, this is unlikely to bring any big benefit to cable users as most cable networks already offer 150-250 channels for Rs 153.
Secondly, in case the number of channels activated by a subscriber goes above 200, the network charge will now be capped at Rs 160 plus tax, or about Rs 189.