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New Delhi, NFAPost: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has extended the deadline for implementation of the new tariff order (NTO 2.0) to 1 June from 1 April this year.

“Keeping in view the current pandemic situation across the country and requests received from stakeholders for extension of time for implementation of New Regulatory Framework, it has been decided to extend the time limit (for the same),” said a letter dated 3 February to broadcasters and distributors signed by Anil Kumar Bhardwaj, advisor (broadcasting and cable services), Trai.

Several stakeholders have made representations that most of their staff were infected by covid and many were unable to attend office because of guidelines issued by state governments. Many staff members and cable operators are finding it difficult to reach covid affected subscribers and areas for collection, Trai said, explaining the extension.

All broadcasters must now report any change in name, nature, language, maximum retail prices (MRPs) per month of channels or bouquets or composition of the latter according to the new framework by 28 February and simultaneously publish the same on their websites. All broadcasters who have already filed reference interconnect offer may also revise this by the same date.

All distribution platform owners can report distribution retail price of pay channels or their bouquets and composition of pay and free-to-air channels by 31 March.

To be sure, last November, the Supreme Court had adjourned the NTO 2.0 matter between the Indian Broadcasting Digital Foundation (IBDF) a unified representative body of television broadcasters in India, and Trai to 15 February 2022.

The two have been sparring over various issues related to NTO 2.0. The Bombay high court had upheld the constitutional validity of NTO except for one condition which mandated that the maximum retail price (MRP) per month of any a-la-carte channel forming a part of the bouquet should not exceed three-time of the average MRP of a pay channel of the bouquet.

When NTO was first introduced and allowed consumers to choose a la carte channels, the cost of entertainment went up forcing Trai to amend its order. NTO 2.0 was announced in January 2020 which capped a bouquet channel price at Rs 12 instead of Rs 19. IBDF had said this was not backed by any logical rationale or consumer insight.

Though Trai and broadcasters have been fighting in court, K. Madhavan, chairman, CII national committee on media and entertainment and president, the Walt Disney Company India and Star India, recently said that the new team at Trai is inclined to address the concerns of the industry. “We hope to have a more proactive and positive approach from the regulator. There needs to be light-touch regulation, so as to not hold the industry back,” Madhavan had said at the Big Picture Summit.

At the same event, Trai chairman P D Vaghela said that the regulator is committed to ensuring ease of doing business for the telecom and broadcast sector.

“Trai’s main motto is to create a level-playing field for all stakeholders…and ensure balance between broadcasters and distribution operators. Transparency in tariffs and service offerings for consumers remain the core objective of Trai, but also unfortunately, slightly controversial. The fact that our tariffs in broadcasting are among the lowest in the world exemplifies that Trai interventions have helped the consumers,” Vaghela had said.

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