MUMBAI: Cable TV services in thousands of homes across Mumbai and Thane have been blank since Wednesday sans prior intimation following the confused rollout of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) new channel pricing and subscription tariff regime.
The TRAI has already extended the deadline for switching to the new pricing system to March 31, 2019, to ensure that subscribers do not face any type of inconvenience during the transition phase.
Stung by the abrupt disruption, irate subscribers have started thronging the offices of local cable operators (LCOs) demanding an explanation and immediate resumption of services. Fearing law and order problems, the helpless cable operators have sought the intervention of senior police officials to look into their woes and help resolve the issue. “The entire issue arose because of misunderstanding,” said Sameer Vichare, consultant – Subscriber Management System (SMS) and Central Access System (CAS).
While the TRAI has extended the deadline for switchover to the new channel pricing till March 31, 2019, the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) has separately asked cable operators to offer the “best fit plan” by February 15 as part of the industry’s transition to the new system. “The blackout in several parts of the city happened because of the technical issues associated with the switchover,” said Mr Vichare. The “best fit plan” comprises largely free-to-air channels that vary from area to area depending on the population dynamics. There are currently 328 paid channels and 534 free-to-air channels in the country.
In their letter to all six police stations falling under the jurisdiction of the Mira Road and Bha-yandar divisions of the Thane (rural) police, the operators, under the aegis of the local cable association, have blamed Hath-way Digital Pvt. Ltd., the multiservice operator (MSO), for arbitrarily bla-cking out cable TV services and adamantly refusing recommencement despite repeated pleas and requests. “It is true that March 31 is the deadline, but the step is aimed at giving momentum to the selection process. Once the subscriber chooses the channels, the services are immediately restored. However, free-to-air channels have not been restricted,” said Rajeev Mehra of the MSO.
“Despite paying the subscription fees in advance, TV channels have gone off air. The cable operator who said he needed my signatures on some forms for resumption of services has now gone incommunicado,” said Sandip Yadav.
With an option of 100 free-to-air (FTA) channels, the new tariff regime allows viewers to select the television channels and pay the maximum retail price for each or bouquet options set by respective broadcasters. Apart from 25 mandatory FTA channels from Doordarshan, viewers can add their own FTA or paid channels.
With inputs from Suresh Golani