Cable service providers in India have met with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to demand regulations

January 29, 2004

4 Min Read

p>NEW DELHI, India -- Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had a meeting with various cable associations today i.e. 28 January at Samrat Hotel, New Delhi. The meeting was presided by Shri Pradeep Baijal, Chairman, TRAI.

The meeting began with various representatives giving the introduction to the evolution of cable TV industry, various problems faced by the Last Mile Operators and need for regulating the industry keeping the interest of thousands of small operators who pioneered the industry. Mr. Baijal expressed his concern on monopoly of cable operators and the interests of the consumers. He also spoke of introducing more competition in cable television service by bringing in telecom companies.

Various cable operators associations from all parts of India including Mumbai, Kolkata, Assam, Chennai, Bangalore, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Pondicherry and Punjab apprised their various problems during the meeting and also suggested solutions for the same. The foremost on their agenda was vertical monopoly by broadcasters through their supported MSOs, which has brought the present chaotic situation in the cable TV industry where there are no holds over arbitrary increase in the rates by broadcasters and their continuous efforts to force increased connectivity on the cable operators to extract more money. This has only risked the survival of 15 lakh employees of cable TV networks and 45 lakh people dependent on them.

They also showed their concern on the entry of various telecom companies like Reliance, Bharti, BSNL etc. in the cable television distribution business in the guise of Convergence. A number of representatives of cable operators had also brought case histories and copies of Court Cases to emphasize their point regarding exploitation by the broadcasters.

A number of suggestions to bring the cable TV industry out of the present vexed state were given by the cable operators associations:-

  • All broadcast channels should be licensed like any other service provider so as to bring them in the Indian regulatory fold.

  • Channel prices should be uniform all over the country and trai should fix an upper limit for the same. The prices of the channels should be same for cable, DTH and other relevant services.

  • Cross Media Restrictions should be imposed, for example a broadcaster's stake should be restricted in cable or DTH or any other mode of delivery.

  • Today DTH services are not under the realm of service tax or entertainment tax. This must be done to create a level-playing field.

  • It was pointed out that cable television in India is the cheapest in the world. Then why is the regulator trying to bring in more competition as earlier expressed by Shri Baijal.

  • The bouquet system should be abolished to help the consumer to choose the channels of his choice.

  • Since cable TV is a Small Scale Service & Business Enterprise, it should be adequately protected from takeovers by large business houses. In fact, the last mile of all broadband services should be the responsibility of small cable operators.

  • Since broadcasters are making double revenues through advertisements as well as subscriptions, there should be a cap on advertisements on pay channels.

Mr. Baijal said that they had no power to do the costing of broadcast channels. To that the cable operators questioned the authority of the government in fixing the basic prices for cable services (FTA).

Representative from Chennai, where cas is already implemented, informed the gathering that cas was very successful in Chennai as most of the subscribers were benefited. Also, he informed that out of the 12 lakh C&S homes in Chennai, only 21,000 Set -Top -Boxes have been sold so far as against 2,50,000 pay channel connectivity before CAS, forcing all the regional pay channels and also the exclusive pay channels to give their services free to the Chennai subscribers in order to retain their advertisement revenue.

The operators from Assam expressed their anguish on the behaviour of some broadcasters who refused to understand that 80% of the North East population is under the poverty line and can not afford the high costs of pay channels. They wanted that there should be some consideration by TRAI to provide cable television services at affordable cost to this section of the viewers which constitutes the majority in India.

Interestingly, it was also pointed out by an Assam representative that the TRAI phone and fax numbers on its website were false as everyone trying to reach TRAI was being quite angrily welcomed by some defence personnel who actually owned these phone numbers!

The operators at the end of the meeting held a discussion for working out the next course of action. They also declared:

  • "South India Cable Service Providers Welfare Association" having representation from states viz. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Pondicherry.

  • to launch a website: "" to inform each and every cable operator of India about the latest information and happenings in the industry.

The cable operators, in order to press their demands staged a protest demonstration today i.e. January 29th at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. They later gave a memorandum to Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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