DTH operators can no longer drop channels at will

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | March 13, 2009
TRAI has amended its regulation to prevent DTH operators from changing the composition of their packages

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has amended its regulations for DTH operators and prevented them from arbitrarily changing the mix of channels in subscription packages for consumers.

TRAI has amended the Direct to Home Broadcasting Services (Standards of Quality of Service and Redressal of Grievances) Regulations 2007. According to the new regulations, DTH operators cannot change the composition of subscription packages for the first six months of subscription or the period for which the package is valid, whichever is longer.

& #BANNER1 & #If the DTH operator decides to drop a channel from any package, it should reduce the subscription fees for the consumer in proportion. The consumer can also be given the option of choosing another channel of the same genre and language in lieu of the dropped channel.

Also, the DTH operator should inform the consumer at least 15 days in advance before changing the composition of the package.

In addition, if a consumer requests the suspension of the DTH service for up to three months, the service provider has been asked to comply with the request. However, this will be applicable only on completion of the month in which the request is placed.

Finally, DTH operators have been prohibited from charging any visiting, repair or maintenance fees on their equipment as long as it is under warranty.

Before these amendments were brought into action, TRAI had consulted the key stakeholders for their comments. Predictably, DTH operators were against any regulation on the packaging of channels and said that they should have the freedom to frame their subscription packages and drop channels when required.

Broadcasters and DTH operators had also favoured a minimum subscription period of four months for subscribing to any package but this has not been mentioned in the regulation.

As for the suspension of service, DTH operators said that they pay broadcasters on the basis of calendar months and the requests from customers should be entertained on the same basis.

So far, DTH operators were not required to inform customers of changes in packages. This usually happens when a channel goes pay and operators may no longer afford to place it in the base pack, which has a fixed price. For instance, Colors will no longer be available in the base packs of most DTH operators after it goes pay in April.

Inclusion of new channels such as Real, the channel which was launched recently, also has an impact on the packages.

DTH operators say they make changes in packages according to the popularity of the channels and the demand for them.