As you are aware, from 1st February 2019 the new rules for DTH and cable television will come into force. It was supposed to be effective from 29 December 2018 but due to various problems, it was postponed. Those who are dependent on their cable operators, at times become confused because many times the cable operators do not clarify the subscribers about the new rules and because of this there is every chance of missing out your favourite program for some time.
Time to time you can see the notifications scrolling down the screen during your favourite programs, but every time it is not possible to remember those notifications. Now let's have a look at the recent TRAI guidelines related to DTH and cable TV services.
If you need to install another cable TV or DTH connection at your home or wish to become a new subscriber then you have to pay Rs 500/- as installation charges. This is excluding any hardware or set-top boxes, for which you have to pay extra. In general, cable or DTH operators charge anything between Rs 500/- and Rs 1,500/- per connection and in most of the cases this amount is non-refundable. There was no uniformity about these charges and varied depending on the operator. With this new order, a subscriber has to pay Rs 350/- as installation charges and Rs 150/- as activation charges. Therefore the total comes to Rs 500/-.
Purchase of Set-top box (STB)
Earlier it was mandatory for the subscribers to purchase the STB or use it on rent from the cable operators. Now the cable operators cannot force a subscriber to take the STBs from them only and if the subscriber can arrange the STBs that work with the particular service, he can easily procure it from the other source. This means if a compatible set-top box to use with the existing services offered by the cable operator is available in the market you can use it too.
Now let's go to the much talked about rules for bouquets and individual channels.
All cable and DTH subscribers are paying a monthly subscription based on the packs that are selected during the earlier modification, though at that time there was an option to choose individual channels and pay rent accordingly. The price of many individual channels was much higher at that time and all the cable operators offered their subscribers different packages according to the types and number of channels they preferred to watch. In that case, there are many channels in the package that you never watch, either because you are not interested in them or do not understand the language of the broadcast programs. In the new guidelines, this problem has been addressed and you have to pay only for the channels that you are willing to watch.
The new base pack
A subscriber has to pay Rs 130/- + 18% GST for first 100 channels if all the channels are free to air. This Rs 130/- is charged as Network Capacity Fee (NCF) and is fixed if the number of channels is 100. The users have the freedom to choose these 100 channels and need to pay accordingly. Suppose if a subscriber chooses 60 free to air (FTA) channels and 40 pay channels then she/he has to pay Rs 130/- + rent of the 40 pay channels + 18% GST.
It is not necessary that one has to choose 100 channels, one can choose 20 channels also and in that case he has to pay Rs 130/- + the rent of pay channels that he has selected + 18% GST.
If the number of channels exceeds 100, then for the next additional 25 channels the subscriber has to pay Rs 20/- as an additional Network Capacity Fee. Therefore, if someone chooses 125 channels then he has to pay Rs 130/- + Rs 20/- + rent of all the pay channels + 18% GST.
This is applicable for standard definition (SD) channels and for high definition (HD) channels, one single HD channel is counted as 2 channels in the base pack.
Channels on an a-la-carte basis
Every pay channel has a maximum retail price (MRP) and the existing subscribers can find the MRP of an individual channel in Electronic Program Guide (EPG) or in the menu of individual channels. The EPG and MENU button is there in the remote control of the STB and by pressing these buttons you can get the price details. The upper limit of MRP is fixed at Rs 19/- and no channel can charge more than this amount. Pay channels are starting from Rs 0.50 and it can go up to maximum Rs 19/-.
Subscribers must have noticed that many broadcasters are advertising the price of bouquets at a fixed rate which is basically a bundle of few channels of that broadcaster. It is not necessary to subscribe to bouquets and you can always prefer to select one or a few among the bundles.
In this new guidelines, the cable/DTH operators cannot force you to choose channels or packages and you have the freedom to select the channels according to your wish. Broadcasters will always advertise different bouquets to promote a bundle of channels and the cost of the bundle is less than the total cost of the individual channels in the bundle. While these new guidelines give you the freedom to pay for what you watch, it is not necessarily going to reduce your monthly subscription charges. While choosing bouquets can be effective if you like to watch all the channels offered in those bouquets, choosing a number of individual pay channels can certainly increase the cost. Therefore, choose wisely and pay for those channels you watch.
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Author has given detailed information regarding the recent TRAI guidelines.
The customer can choose free as well as paid channels. The total number of channels should be around 100 so that the network capacity fees and GST do not go beyond Rs:153. In my case, the cable operator has provided a list of free channels and has told me that they are fixed. I had asked him whether we get to choose channels from the free list too. He clearly disagreed. I will be choosing paid channels or packs of my choice. Now, these paid channels along with 100+ free channels are going to cost me a lot. Either cable operators are trying to con laymen as these rules are new and people do not know the guidelines or else cable operators themselves are ignorant of the rules.
Thanks, Reena Upadhya for going through my article. Actually, many cable operators are trying to impose some rules on the customers because many of them do not have clarity on them. There is a tussle between the MSOs and the LCOs regarding profit sharing and the LCOs are alleging that with these new guidelines, their profit margins would reduce.
Maybe to protect their own share, your cable operator has told you that you cannot choose the free channels. That's just my guess, maybe he is not aware of the new guidelines. You can choose any channels that you wish to watch and as long as it is not crossing 100 channels, the NCF is Rs 130/-. Beyond that, for every 25 channels, you have to pay Rs 20/- additional as NCF. You have the freedom to choose these 100 channels, which may be completely FTA or a mix of FTA and pay channels.