Cable TV Customers and Operators alike Face brunt of new TRAI Rules

Cable TV Customers and Operators alike Face brunt of new TRAI Rules

Harshita Himatsingka | March 10, 2019 12:10 hrs

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued new guidelines and reforms in December last to regulate and make uniform the process of cable TV operation in the country. This was done to ensure “transparency, non-discrimination, protection of consumer interest and enable orderly growth of the sector.” However, the transition process for this has left many customers at the receiving end of many frustrations. 

As per the new norms, the broadcasters have been asked to fix the price of each of their channels and to declare their maximum retail price (MRP). Further, under the new tariff system, the customers will have the liberty to choose the channels they would like to watch and will only have to pay for the channels they subscribe to. Apart from this, there will be 100 channels which will be free-to-air and will be provided compulsorily to the viewers. For these 100 channels, a total of Rs 130 plus GST will be charged. For any additional channel, the customers will have to pay extra per channel. 

“I am having a lot of problems with a number of TV channels provided by my local cable operator since TRAI has introduced its new rules. It has been more than a month now, and a lot of channels don’t air even when I have subscribed to them. My cable operator has been harassed by his customers and he has given up his job because of the new guidelines. He now has a paan shop. I think these new regulations are just an attempt by the government to make things easier for the upcoming Jio connection, wherein most of the areas of Dispur and 6 miles are done with laying of cables,” said a frustrated and tired resident of Hatigaon.

Speaking to G Plus, cable operator Bhaneshwar Deka, who has almost 1,000 customers, said that they are facing trouble with this as a company because the whole process is very new and they were not expecting the change to happen this soon. 
“It’s been a problem because it’s very new. We are still not used to it and nor are the customers. We could not teach our staff the necessary skills required before this process was implemented. So it has been a learning curve for us cable operators too” said Deka.

One of the main problems that customers face according to him is when recharging their accounts. If a customer recharges his account, the channel they want to subscribe to might not show up until the next day or even until a few days.
Deka informed that the filter for the TV channel comes from Noida and customers are complaining of not getting their channels as this process is happening all across India and the filter gets jammed. 

“Another important thing is that if the set-top box is switched off when requesting or subscribing to channels/packs, it can cause minor and major delays in their availability,” said Deka.

Another issue that commonly plagues both customers and operators is the fact that customers are not used to recharging their TV packs online by themselves. This causes frustration on part of both, as customers have to wait for the cable operator to recharge their packs and the operators are stuck as they have to manually recharge their packs for each and every customer. 

According to Rajesh Sarma of Guwahati Cable TV Operators’ Association, out of the total revenue collected, 80 percent will go to the broadcasters and out of the rest, the control room will get 10 percent while the other 10 percent will be shared by the operator.

“Now, because of the new system, we are understaffed and low on inventory. Earlier, if we needed three people and three computers, now we need double of both manpower and technology,” said Deka indicating that the costs for cable operators has gone up but their revenue share has gone down. 

In terms of additional costs, Deka said that before people could avail all channels, free and paid, roughly for 250-300 rupees, but for the same amount now, one cannot get even half of what they used to before. Also, if a single pack now includes even one more extra channel than the prescribed 100 channels, customers have to pay an additional Rs 20 for each pack. 

Speaking on the matter, Sanjive Narain, Director of ACC Siticable said that while prices are coming down for people in cities, they are increasing for people in rural areas.

“The entire system is going through a change and cable operators have to keep their patience as the entire country is going through this transition period. When all subscribers meet to select their channels and take it all at once, the systems become slow and that’s why there is a lag in receiving certain channels. Initially, there were problems all across the country, but slowly these problems are coming down and things are falling into place, into normalcy,” he added.
Narain also mentioned that even though business will be affected because the rural population will not be able to subscribe to all the channels, since people in the urban areas are ready to shell out 300-350 rupees and get the big channels, it should be okay. 

“I would like to request all the operators to keep their patience and to not panic as the situation is same all across the country. Some operators are scared that since Reliance Jio is coming in, they will take over their local business, but that is not true and it won’t affect these local businesses as the economically backward section of society will stick to the cable network as it will always remain the cheapest option,” informed Narain.

It should be mentioned that the new cable TV tariff system was set to be implemented from December 29, 2018, then the date was moved to February 1, 2019. However, TRAI has now postponed its implementation in order to ensure smooth transition of customers. The rules will now be enforced from March 31, 2019. 

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