New cable TV charges from Dec 1: TRAI

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New Delhi, Oct 4: Monthly cable TV bill will come down for millions of households from December 1, with the government today fixing a ceiling on maximum charges for various categories of cities.

The new rates for ordinary subscribers come into force in the whole country excepting some limited areas where the Conditional Access System is in operation, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) said in a tariff amendment order issued today.

In cities in the A and A1 category which includes all the four metros plus Hyderabad and Bangalore, the ceiling is Rs 160 for 30 Free to Air(FTA) Channels and up to 20 pay channels. These charges exclude taxes.

The charge will go up to Rs 200 if the number of pay channels goes up to 30. For up to 45 pay channels, the charge will be Rs 235 and for more than 45, the maximum charge is Rs 260.

In all cases, 30 FTAs will be provided. Those subscribers who opt for only FTAs, will pay a maximum charge of Rs 77 excluding taxes.

These charges will also apply to the A category cities like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Pune, Kanpur and Nagpur.

The ceiling for the above four combinations for B1 and B2 cities will be Rs 140, Rs 170, Rs 200 and Rs 220 respectively. These cities include Allahabad, Agra, Bhopal, Coimbatore, Amritsar and Patna.

For other cities, the maximum charges for the four combinations will be Rs 130, Rs 160, Rs 185 and Rs 200 respectively.

The formulation in respect of commercial subscribers like three-star and above hotels has not been modified.

TRAI said the Telecommunication(Broadcasting and Cable) Services Second Tariff (Eights Amendment) Order, 2007 was aimed at protecting the interest of consumers.

Originally, the existing tariff order stipulated that the charges paid for cable services will not be increased beyond the level prevailing as on December 26, 2003.

Subsequently, an increase of seven per cent in these charges was allowed from January 1, 2005. Later, another increase of four per cent was allowed from January 1, 2006. However, this increase of four per cent was stayed by TDSAT on December.20, 2005 and disposed of finally on December 21, 2006, whereby TDSAT allowed TRAI to pass appropriate order on revision of rates for subsequent period.

Accordingly, the tariff amendment order provides for an increase of four per cent as already decided earlier by TRAI. However, this increase will be given effect only if the service providers have not already incorporated this increase in their charges after the matter was disposed of by the Tribunal on December 21, 2006.

Even after the increase of four per cent mentioned above, the tariff amendment order provides specific ceilings for ordinary subscribers and residual commercial subscribers based on the number of channels transmitted for different categories of cities, towns and other habitations.

TRAI said the new ceilings on the monthly cable charges compare very well with those of CAS areas and DTH services due to many reasons. Firstly, requirements of mandatory billing with necessary details, issue of receipts for payments made have been provided to empower the consumers.

Broadcasters must provide all their channels on a-la-carte basis and declare a-la-carte rates to multi system operators (MSOs)/cable operators.

Bouquets of channels can also be offered. But to prevent perverse pricing and to make the a-la-carte choice effective, it has been provided that the bouquet rates and a la carte rates of channels forming part of a bouquet should satisfy the certain conditions: Sum of a-la-carte rates not to exceed 1.5 times the bouquet rate.

A-la-carte rate of each channel cannot be more than three times the average rate of the pay channel in the bouquet.

The above measure is expected to enable the MSOs/cable operators to choose channels in tune with the liking of their subscribers in the localities being served to them, and consequently to reduce the burden of cable charges on the subscribers on account of unwanted channels.

The rates of bouquets and stand alone channels as existing on December 1, 2007 cannot be increased by more than four per cent by the broadcasters.

The composition of bouquets as existing on December 1, 2007 cannot also be changed. Appropriate provisions have been made to address situations such as non-availability of channel for distribution due to termination of contractual obligations, conversion of a pay channel to FTA or vice versa.

Broadcasters can introduce new pay channels and also new bouquets consisting of new or existing pay channels and decide the prices thereof. But this will be subject to conditions for preventing perverse pricing as indicated above, and will be further subject to interventions by TRAI, based essentially on the existing principle that rates of new channels should be similar to existing similar channels.

President of the Cable Operators of India Roop Sharma hailed the TRAI order as in absolute interest of consumers.

''Now they will not have to pay for unwanted channels. Consumers can keep their bill down very easily by choosing the channels they want, which in any case does not exceed 20 in 90 per cent of families,'' she said.



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