A meeting was held last week between TRAI and with the senior executives of all the three stakeholders at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi to discuss Trai’s agenda for the next year. While a lot of issues were discussed at the meet, the main focus of the meeting was the new tariff order that has been released by TRAI which comes into effect from 29th December 2018.

A major part of the two-and a-half hour meeting was spent debating the new tariff regime, readiness of the stakeholders and consumer migration issues. While all the service providers are asking for an extension on the same order, TRAI has refused to give an extension for the same. The biggest concern everyone has regarding this order is that the TV bill may increase than what it is right now, and seeing the prices of some channels, it’s a likely scenario for all those who like to have more than 15 channels subscribed.

Another issue here is that, some broadcasters are unsure about how the implementation would take place. But the main concern that the chairman of TRAI addressed at the meeting was that there should be a smooth transition and that there should not be a black-out of TV services in any situation. Broadcasters have also been advised to work with the cable and DTH operators during the transition period. The chairman reiterated that as per the new framework the consumer will get to choose the channels of their choice and the freedom of choice will mean a direct control of the consumer on his monthly TV bill.

The one thing this tariff regime is doing is that it is taking away the choice from the consumers. Agreed that they only have to pay for the channels they want to watch, but an Indian consumer is always of the mindset that it likes having a choice and it likes having a variety. With the films coming on television barely two months after they have released the consumer would like to have that choice of watching that channel and not pay extra for it. Right now, consumers are getting almost all the channels (SD) at their disposal for say around 350-400 but now that is going to go upto say 600 easy if they like to have that many channels. There are about 165 million paying TV subscribers in India and as much freedom of choice that they are getting, they’ll have to pay extra for every choice they make now. Pay different for the GECs, pay different for the Hindi movie channels, pay different for English channels, pay different for regional channels, pay different for Sports and pay different for Kids channels. Sounds convenient? Only time shall tell.

By – Amul Vikas Mohan

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