DTH Operators Should Not Force Subscribers to Choose Bouquets or Curated Packs: Trai

When Trai announced the new broadcasting framework back in 2017, it promised transparency and complete rights of choosing channels would be with the customer. However, the new tariff mandate is fully effective and several customers are still facing issues related to channel selection and other issues which the service providers are unable to solve. Last week, it was reported that Trai had issued showcause notices to six Cable TV operators for not following the rules under the new framework. And now, the regulator has warned again the Cable TV and DTH operators who are found violating its new tariff order. Furthermore, Trai said that it would soon begin an audit of subscriber management and other IT systems of errant operators.

Trai Chairman R S Sharma said consumer choice and consumer interest are “non-negotiable” and “cannot be compromised” and that companies not adhering to rules will have to face the consequences. “We have received complaints about the inconvenience to customers. These complaints relate to software and systems put in place by distributors not enabling true choice for consumers, which is the aim of the whole framework. If the choice of channels is restricted…then basic intention seems to be to push packs and bouquets and push your own agenda. That is not the spirit of the regulatory framework,” Sharma told PTI.

It is okay for consumers to choose packs or bouquets but the choice for TV viewing has to remain with customers, and they should be “enabled” to do so, he said. “If you disable consumers from exercising their choice then it is a true violation of the framework. We have taken these things seriously, and we have issued showcause notices to a number of distributors,” the Trai chief said.

Trai will come down “heavily” on any entity which comes in the way of true implementation of its tariff order or causes any inconvenience to consumers, Sharma said terming consumer choice as the ‘central theme’ of new norms for cable and broadcasting sector.

“If you somehow try to circumvent that or negate it (consumer choice) then we are going to apply full regulatory strength to ensure that the entities comply,” Sharma said.

Trai to Soon Begin Audit of Subscriber Management

Trai is in the process of empanelling auditing agencies and will soon begin an audit of subscriber management and other IT systems for companies that are found to be flouting norms. “We have issued directions to nine companies and issued showcause to five. Soon we will be auditing systems of various service providers to ensure compliance with the new regulatory framework,” he said.

Sharma said Trai’s message to stakeholders is that the regulatory framework should be implemented in letter and spirit. “And consumers should really get the power…don’t try to play with it (tariff order) or circumvent it,” Sharma said.

Last week, Trai said six cable TV players, including GTPL Hathway and Siti Networks, violated several rules, especially those related to new tariff order, and directed them to ensure compliance.

The other players were Fastway Transmissions, Den Networks, IndusInd Media and Communications (IMCL) and Hathway Digital. Trai found that GTPL Hathway, Siti Networks, Fastway Transmissions, Den Networks, and IMCL are forcing channels and package schemes to the consumers, and subscribers are not able to exercise their choice till date.

Trai has unveiled a new tariff order and regulatory regime for the broadcast and cable sector to facilitate consumers to opt for channels they wish to view and pay only for them. It had said every channel should be offered a la carte, with a transparent display of rates on electronic programme guide.

The regulator also clarified that DTH and cable operators could not force consumers to go in for only predefined packages or bouquets.