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TRAI’s new rules for DTH, cable operators: Here’s how your cable TV bill changes
The Indian Express, January 15, 2019

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has started sending out text messages to all subscribers about the upcoming changes to television tariffs, which apply to all DTH and local cable operators as well.

The new rules will empower customers to pay for the channels they watch, rather than rely on pre-decided packs by DTH companies or their local cable operators.

TRAI’s new regulatory framework for broadcasting and cable television comes into effect on February 1, 2019, with January 31, 2019 being the deadline to implementing it. The new rules mean that customers have to choose 100 or more channels, and pay exactly what the broadcaster is charging for these channels.

In its messages to customers, TRAI has given a link to the channel tariffs and how these will impact your cable TV bill. Here are details.

So what will these new TRAI rules for DTH, cable operators mean?

The idea with these new regulations is to reduce cable television bills and let you, the customer, choose what channels you wish to pay for, rather than getting channels that you do not watch.

Customers can choose their 100 base channels (you can add more to your pack, though that will increase the price) from a range of free-to-air channels (which are available for free), paid channels or the broadcaster bouquets.

What will a cable TV bill look like after TRAI’s rules come into effect?

The base pack – with a network capacity fee of Rs 130 per month – will include 100 channels, though this is only for SD (standard definition) channels. In this base pack you can have various combinations. TRAI’s website has a link on how these packs will work, though these are only suggestive packs.

For instance, for the Hindi speaking market, TRAI has put out a suggestive pack which will cost Rs 184 per month, and this includes taxes. The pack has 25 paid channels, 50 free-to-air channels and 25 Doordarshan channels (all free-to-air). The base network capacity fee is Rs 130, then there is extra Rs 26 cost for the paid channels, which is calculated by adding the MRP of all channels. Finally, 18 per cent GST (which comes to Rs 28) is added to this bill and the total cost becomes Rs 184.

This pack from TRAI is only an example. The customer has full freedom choose his or her combination of channels. For those who add paid channels in this list of 100, the MRP of all these channels will be added along with the Rs 130 network capacity fee.

To give another example, if your pack of 100 channels has 50 free-to-air channels, 25 DD channels and the total cost of the remaining 25 paid channels is Rs 79, then the bill is 130+79+18 per cent GST, which comes to Rs 245.62. That’s rounded off to Rs 246 per month.

I want more than 100 channels. Can I choose that in the new rules?
Yes, you can choose more than 100 channels. For example, if you have chosen all 100 free-to-air channels, then your network capacity fee is only Rs 130. Then you add more channels to this list of 100, which will be done in a slab of 25 channels with a maximum network capacity fee of Rs 20 per slab.

Then the total bill will include the base network capacity fee of Rs 130 + Rs 20 fee (for the slab of extra 25 channels) and the total MRP of those of 25 channels along with the 18 per cent GST. For example, if these extra channels cost Rs 50 in total, then your bill will be Rs 130+20+50, which is Rs 200+18% GST, which comes to Rs 236 per month.

One does not have choose to channels in slabs of 25. A customer can add less than 25 channels also, but then they will be charged a network capacity fee of Rs 1 per channel + taxes for 15 or less channels.

How does one check prices of all channels? What is the maximum price of channels?
TRAI’s website has a list of all the prices of all paid channels. Customers can go to TRAI’s website at channeltariff.trai.gov.in and check the prices of paid channels. All broadcasters have declared the price of each and every channel. TRAI says the maximum price of a channel is now limited to Rs 19.

If you are a sports fan, and want to know the price of the relevant channels, then you can search individually in the PDF. No matter who your DTH or cable provider is, they can only charge you the price declared by the broadcaster for a particular channel.

For example, the Star Sports 3 (English and Hindi) channel’s price is listed as Rs 4, while Star Sports Select 2’s price (English and Hindi) is Rs 7, and Star Sports 1 Hindi will cost Rs 19.

If you only want these three paid channels in your pack, then the total comes to Rs 4+7+19, which is Rs 30, plus Rs 130 network capacity fee and 18% GST. Again this bill is assuming that you are adding only three paid channels to your total of 100 channels and rest are all free-to-air. But you have to choose the 100 channels.

What are these channel bouquets and HD channels? How do these work?
Channel bouquets have also been created by the broadcasters. What this means is that the broadcaster is clubbing together a few channels from their network for a certain price. In your list of paid channels, you can add this bouquet as well. Again, TRAI’s website has a list of all bouquet packs declared by broadcasters.

For HD channels, adding each channel will count as 2 SD channels in your total of 100. For example, Star Network has a list of bouquets or packs based on language, HD or SD resolution with a number of channels clubbed together.

The Hindi HD premium pack will cost Rs 120 per month, with several channels like Baby TV HD, Fox Life HD, Movies OK, Nat Geo Wild HD, Star Bharat HD, Star Gold HD, Star Gold Select HD, Star Movies HD, Star Movies Select HD, Star Plus HD, Star Sports 1 HD Hindi, Star Sports 3, Star Sports First, Star Utsav, Star Utsav Movies, Star World HD, Star Sports HD2, National Geographic HD, Star Sports HD1, Star Sports Select HD1, Star Sports Select HD2 and Star World Premiere HD are clubbed together.

The pack has a total of 22 HD channels, which means 44 SD channels, and that leaves the option of 56 other channels in your pack of 100. So if you pick this Rs 120 Star Hindi HD premium pack, then your cost is Rs 120+Rs 130 network capacity fee and 18 per cent GST. Again this is assuming you do not add any other paid channels.

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