TRAI has now indicated that it will consider a carriage fee level between 50 paise to 1 rupee per subscriber per year to be reasonable. Any level higher than that could attract the attention of the regulator.
“What we have done is we have brought it (carriage fee) out on the surface and have regulated it. It’s a regulated entity now,” TRAI chief JS Sarma said. J S Sarma also pointed out that those Multi-System Operators (MSOs) charging moderate levels of carriage fee would be able to get carriage fees from a large number of channels.
“I would say anything above 50 paise per channel per subscriber per year is something that needs to be noticed. And anything above a rupee needs attention. In other words, we would actually watch is it going beyond a particular range,” J S Sarma said. “It is currently not in the regulation. But obviously, we don’t want astronomical figures. As I said, this is meant for the carriage of the channel. It is not any other money. We are saying no to placement fee,” he added.
The TRAI has also clarified that in the digital environment, all channels would be carried as per a genre-wise Electronic Programming Guide (EPG). There would be no question of any placement fee. MSOs are supposed to provide 500 channels from January 1, 2013 in the digital market and TRAI says this number could increase as time goes by and more channels come up.
“500 channels have to be provided by the MSOs; this is significant. Currently, some people have 175, some have 200, some have 300, and perhaps one or two more persons have more than 300, of the major MSOs. From January 1, 2013, and for smaller people, April 1, 2013, the numbers of channels have to be 500,” Mr Sarma said.
“Tomorrow if the number of active channels goes up, then we could always increase this number. 500 is not frozen,” he added.