TV channels in a digitalised environment will have to carry a minimum of 100 free-to-air channels on their networks, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has laid down in its much-awaited tariff order.
While all TV channels (pay and free-to-air) will be offered on a-la-carte basis to subscribers, the basic service tier (BST) will comprise at least five channels of news and current affairs, infotainment, sports, kids, music, lifestyle, movies and general entertainment in Hindi, English and regional language of the concerned region.
While multi-system operators (MSO) have to offer the BST, it is not obligatory to subscribe to it. The subscriber can form his own package of a maximum of 100 FTA channels, but in either case, the MSO can’t charge the subscriber more than Rs 100 a month.
Besides having to carry a minimum of 500 channels from next year, Trai has mandated that every MSO will have a minimum capacity to carry 200 channels from July 1, 2012.
Mandated to issue tariff orders for digital TV, Trai's order comes on the heels of the I&B ministry's Cable Television Networks Rules 2012 notification on Saturday.
Broadcasters shall not provide their channels to MSOs who have channel carrying capacity of less than 200 channels immediately and less than 500 channels from 2013.
Trai has also entrusted the responsibility of fixing Carriage Fee to the MSO in a uniform and transparent manner.
MSOs can fix the retail tariff, and package and price offerings. But, the sum of the a-la-carte rates of channels — part of a bouquet — shall not exceed 1.5 times the rate of the bouquet.