Faced with less-than-prompt co-operation from some cable and DTH operators, broadcast regulator TRAI has given an extra 34 days for consumers to switch to news packs and prices via their cable and DTH operators.
Under a new direction, Cable and DTH operators have been ordered to put up their new plans and schemes on their website by end of day today (29 December).
Similarly, consumers have to migrate to new plans by January 31 and those who do not complete the move by January 31 could face deactivation.
Under the earlier scheme, the whole implementation — including consumer migration to the new plans — was supposed to have been completed by December 29.
However, the earlier time table has been thrown into disarray as cable and DTH firms have waited for the last day to reveal their plans. Because of this, subscribers have not been able to make the switch before the deadline.
With only hours to go before the deadline, practically none of the big DTH companies have listed the new plans on their website, except for some like Den and Asianet Cable.
The delay by cable and DTH players to put up their new plans has led to massive confusion among consumers, who have not been able to activate the new packs.
Because consumers have not made the switch to the new plans and the old plans will lapse at midnight today, there was a fear that all consumers will be moved to ‘free to air’ packs on Saturday (today). This confusion has been cleared now, with the TRAI giving consumers an extra 34 days to make the switch.
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According to the original time table, channel owners were supposed to publish their channel packs and prices by October. Using this information, cable and DTH companies were supposed to publish their channel packs soon after and consumers were supposed to migrate to the new packs.
The whole thing was supposed to be complete by December 29.
The problem arose because the TRAI did not set a separate deadline for cable and DTH companies to update their plans and packs.
Instead, it expected them to reveal their new packs well before the Dec 29 deadline. It had calculated that consumers would get enough time to migrate to the new plans by the deadline.
In an update issued on Friday, the TRAI has modified the time table, giving a specific period of 34 days for consumers to migrate.
It has said that all current plans will be valid till January 31.
TRAI warned that cable and DTH companies should not disconnect the signals of any consumer or channel till January 31 for failing to move to the new plans.
Meanwhile, it again reminded all DTH and cable companies that they must make their new plans available for subscription from Saturday, December 29.
“The Authority once again emphasize that all the provisions of the interconnection Regulations 2017, the QoS Regulations 2017 and the Tariff Order 2017 are in force and the regulatory provisions contained therein may be strictly complied with while implementing the prescribed schedule of activities,” it said today.
“Accordingly, DPOs (cable and DTH firms) shall declare the Distributor Retail Price (DRP) and Network Capacity Fee (NCF) as per the time lines given in TRAIpress release dated 3rd July 2018 i.e. by 29th December 2018.”
Many of the key distribution platforms — including key DTH and cable players — are reported to be against the new rules that take away their channel pricing and packing powers and hand them over to the broadcasters.
The TRAI had originally intended to transfer the power to the consumers, but an intervention by Justice M Sundar of the Madras High Court resulted in the power instead transferring to the broadcasters, also known as the channel owners.
The new channel pricing rules, notified in March last year, have been the subject of multiple cases of litigation, including in the various High Courts, the Supreme Court and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.
Companies such as Star India, Tata Sky and Airtel Digital have challenged the rules in various fora.