In spite of its constraints, the committee says it recognises that since its inception in 2004, TRAI has improved both the quality and transparency of broadcast services – during the digitisation of cable TV networks, the increased proliferation of satellite TV channels and direct-to-home (DTH) services, and the rise of TV ratings agencies in India.
“The committee is, however, constrained to note that TRAI at present has got very limited powers due to which enforcement of its regulations, directions and tariff orders becomes difficult,” SCIT said. It also criticised the effectiveness of a system that requires court action when service providers violate TRAI orders.
While applauding the efforts TRAI has made in regulating the prices of set-top boxes, the committee strongly recommends the unbundling of hardware and associated services and making provision for itemised billing for hardware, as well as associated services like installation, activation and maintenance. Customers should also be given greater retail options to procure compatible hardware, the report suggests.
TRAI was also praised by the committee for its effort to address the issue of channel distribution, in spite of “extreme reluctance by broadcasters to share the details of the carriage fee”. TRAI’s new regulatory framework caps carriage fees to 20 paise per subscriber per channel, a figure that is expected to decrease over time. The regulator’s decision, however, is currently being challenged at the High Courts in both Delhi and Chennai.