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Cable TV pricing: SC orders status quo till February 27
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The Supreme Court has ordered status quo till February 27 on the issue of cable TV pricing on the plea of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). A bench headed by chief justice KG Balakrishnan asked the broadcasters not to take advantage of TDSAT order till February 27.

The court posted matter for further hearing on February 27. Senior counsel Harish Salve and advocate Sanjay Kapur on behalf of TRAI said the impact of the tribunal order will adversely affect consumers besides affecting DTH system and competition in distribution.

The tribunal on January 15 had set aside TRAI's order amending the tariffs for cable services (in non-CAS areas). But with SC's interim order, the broadcasters will not be in a position to withdraw their a-la-carte rates for their channels in accordance with tribunal order. TRAI's amended tariff order will also not be implemented.

TRAI on October 4, 2007, had specified ceilings on how much a cable operator could charge from consumers. It was defined by cities and number of channels. The maximum prices ranged between Rs 77 (for 30 free-to-air channels) and Rs 260 (for a minimum 30 free-to-air and more than 45 pay channels). Those cable operators charging less than these rates were also to be allowed an increase of 4 per cent on existing charges once the order came into effect.

TRAI also asked the broadcasters to provide their channels on a-la-carte basis (rather than clubbing them in bouquets) and declare a-la-carte rates to the multi-system operators and cable operators. Against the tribunal order, TRAI has came to the apex court.

TRAI in its appeal filed through counsel Sanjay Kapur said, as a result of tribunal order, about 80-million subscribers of cable TV in non-CAS areas will lose protection and benefit of a transparent habitation-wise ceiling.

"The a-la-carte provision gave full potential to promote greater competition and definitely enhance the quality of the channels. In the absence of tariff order (October 4, 2007) broadcasters would club their less popular channels with one or two driver channel in the bouquet. Only the driver channel will get attention for quality content by the broadcaster." TRAI says in its statement.

"Due to capacity constraints, new broadcaster with good content will find it difficult to get space on the cable TV networks because of choking of the networks by the bouquets of dominant broadcasters," TRAI said.

Source: Televisionpoint.com
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