The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has criticized a move from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to allow Multi System Operators to fix a carriage fee, saying that the TRAI has thus legitimized carriage fees. In a set of guidelines for the Cable business, the TRAI had said that every MSO may fix a Carriage Fee, but it must also publish the Carriage fee, and it should be applicable in a “uniform, non-discriminatory and transparent manner”. A carriage fee is the fees paid by broadcasters to cable companies and DTH operators to carry their channel, and there have, for long, been complaints from broadcasters about the high and arbitrary carriage fees.

The News Broadcasters Association, in a strongly worded letter has said that it is shocked by this move, saying that:

The Notification has legitimised the very practice the NBA had hoped would be ended, i.e. the payment of steep “carriage fees” by broadcasters. The primary purpose of digitisation was to increase the number of channels broadcasted. The objective was to give consumers greater choice and to eliminate the phenomenon of “carriage fees”, which were being charged due to capacity constraints.

However, the NBA is distressed and disappointed that TRAI’s new Notification has actually legalised the practice of “carriage fees” and given distributors the freedom to unilaterally set the amount of “carriage fees” broadcasters must pay. This unfairly penalises broadcasters and threatens the very survival of the
broadcasting industry.

The NBA urges the Government and TRAI to look into this malaise and correct it
urgently.

The rationale for carriage fees had been the limited capacity of legacy cable operator businesses to carry channels, wherein they charged “carriage fees” for carrying channels, and also placing channels at certain preferred spots (for example, 1 to 10).