A delegation of All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), an industry body of MSOs, yesterday met Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur and highlighted its concerns in general, including the vexed issue of tariff guidelines brought out by TRAI.
According to industry sources, the AIDCF team pointed out issues plaguing the cable TV distribution sector and how skewed regulation could result in financial losses, thus adding to the country’s unemployment numbers as thousands could be out of job if MSOs get financially hit.
The Minister gave a patient hearing to the MSOs and tried to allay the fears of those present in the meeting. Also present at the meeting was MIB Joint Secretary- broadcasting Sanjiv Shankar.
After the meeting, Thakur yesterday tweeted: “Interacted with the delegation of All India Digital Cable Federation earlier today. Welcomed their feedback on sustenance and growth of the cable sector, as well as emerging industry trends.”
The AIDCF team, according to the sources, also held meetings at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) yesterday on matters pertaining to a consultation paper, relating to cable distribution, which the regulator has said will be issued soon to address MSOs’ concerns.
Meanwhile, last month, a tiff between MSOs and three major broadcasters (Sony, Zee and Disney Star) had resulted in a few days of blackout of some popular entertainment and other TV channels, which started February 18, and ended up in court.
The broadcasters had switched off their signals to some MSOs, who were AIDCF members, before an out-of-court truce was hammered out on February 23.
Three major broadcasters, Sony, Zee and Disney Star, had switched off their signals to some MSOs for alleged non-compliance of regulator TRAI-mandated guidelines on tariff interconnect agreements.
TRAI’s amended tariff guidelines, notified in November 2022, was challenged by AIDCF and another industry organisations representing cable operators of Kerala in the Kerala High Court
The petitioners had claimed that under the 2020 regime, the price of the “driver” channel in a bouquet was capped at Rs 12, but under the latest tariff order it has been increased to Rs 19.
However, even the 2020 regime was not properly implemented till now by TRAI, it had alleged. The regulator had refuted the allegation in court, saying that the 2020 regulations and tariff order regarding TV channel pricing was not implemented as all stakeholders, including AIDCF, were of the view that it requires a re-look, a PTI report had stated earlier.
The telecom and broadcast regulator also claimed that AIDCF had consented to the price cap of Rs 19 per channel.
Though the court had refused to give interim relief to the petitioners, informal talks were held on February 23 between the MSOs and broadcasters to find a compromise formula so as not to inconvenience the consumers further.