A man watches television at his home in the farming village of Thana kalan, Haryana, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

TRAI Asks DTH Firms To Continue Long-Duration Packs If Customer Wishes

Ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline for switchover to the new broadcasting regime, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has asked DTH operators to honour pre-paid commitment on ongoing long-duration packs, if customer wishes to continue with them.

The advisory being sent out to operators assumes significance as the deadline for migration to the new tariff regime for broadcasting and cable services is hours away and there have been reports that some DTH players are nudging customers with long-duration packs, to choose channels under the new framework, without offering them the option to continue with their plan.

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma told PTI that there was no change in the Feb. 1 deadline for migration to the new tariff regime for broadcasting and cable services.

Sharma said he is "confident" of a smooth switchover on the stipulated day without any inconvenience to customers.

"Where customers have already exercised their choice and decided to move to the new framework, if they have long or short duration packs, it (the payment made) will get adjusted,” Sharma said. “In those cases where people have not yet migrated and they have a long or short duration plan already on, the regulation clearly states that customers have the choice to continue with it, till the plan expires.”

The TRAI chief also made it clear that if a DTH customer with existing long-duration pack wishes to exercise his channel choice mid-way (opt for specific channels under the new regime), then the balance money left in customer wallet at that point should accordingly be adjusted by the operator.

Also read: No Blackout Of Subscribed TV Channels: TRAI

Sharma emphasised that the right to choose—whether to continue with ongoing long duration pack till its expiry, or migrate to the new regime and have the balance adjusted—will remain with the customer.

TRAI has unveiled the new tariff order and regulatory regime for the broadcast and cable sector, which would pave the way for consumers to opt for channels they wish to view, and pay only for them. It had said every channel should be offered a la carte, with a transparent display of rates on electronic programme guide.

Even in case of short-duration packs, customers can make their selection when they go in for recharges. "There's no question of discontinuation,” Sharma said. “We're very clear that in DTH platform also, customer will not have to suffer, since it is a completely pre-paid platform."

The customer on-boarding in case of DTH has been less than cable services (where in 70 percent of the cases the customer choice has been recorded) but Trai believes that its pre-paid nature will ensure that there is no disruption in services.

Sharma said that old framework was a push mechanism, while the new regime is the "pull" mechanism that places channel choice in the hands of consumer. Users, he said can simply browse their TV and note down the channels they generally watch and then communicate their choices to operators.

Also read: TRAI Moves Supreme Court Against Tribunal Order On Predatory Pricing