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TRAI mulls tariff regulation for DTH - Sathish - 03-07-2009

New Delhi, March 6 The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India will consider tariff regulation in the DTH sector.

The regulator issued a consultation paper on Friday that not only covers tariff regulation but also issues relating to value-added services such as movie-on-demand, pay-per-view and services such as Active Learning, Active Stories and Active Darshan.

Value-added services are revenue earners, generally sold as part of a package. It will also look into carriage fees charged by the DTH operators to broadcasters clamouring for limited space on platforms.

The regulator has also been asked by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, acting on the petition of a DTH operator, to look into the issue. No formal tariff order has been issued by TRAI for DTH services so far.

However, in order to ensure that DTH operators get TV channels from broadcasters without difficulty and on request from the players themselves, TRAI has decided to look into the matter.

Currently, according to a TRAI order, broadcasters are offering channels to DTH operators at 50 per cent of the rates offered to the cable industry.

The regulator has already mandated that broadcasters offer their channels on an individual (a la carte) basis to DTH operators and not insist on the entire bouquet.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wants the TRAI’s views on provisioning of value-added services, or whether they should be viewed as channels in themselves.

It also wants to know whether DTH needs to be recognised as a third mode, after terrestrial (AM and FM) and satellite, since it offers radio channels too.

Cable is covered by an order setting a ceiling of prices charged. Areas under Conditional Access System are covered by a maximum price of Rs 82 a month for basic service tier of a minimum of 30 free-to-air channels, and Rs 5.35 for an individual channel.

Broadcasters have sought legal intervention against the CAS tariff order.

With regards to DTH in particular, courts are also hearing matters in which sports broadcaster ESPN, DTH operators Tata Sky and Sun Direct, and the regulator are interested aggrieved or parties. Stakeholders’ views have been sought by March 30.