May 25, 2006, New Delhi, Press Release

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), must make a clear distinction between the ordinary cable subscriber and commercial cable subscriber while fixing tariffs. This was stated in a Submission given by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS International) at an open house on ‘Issues related to Commercial Tariff for Broadcasting and Cable Television Services’ organised by TRAI in the capital today.

“The key line of distinction should be whether the services are being commercially exploited or not’” said Mani Lamba, Director, CUTS International. “‘Consumer’ should be viewed as an ultimate user of goods and services. Therefore the distinction between ordinary cable subscriber and commercial cable subscriber should in on the basis of the nature of end use.”

The nature of end use should be further distinguished as whether the service is used for own use or packaged as a value added service with other services provided and sold to consumer at a charge, she added.

With this change, the definition of commercial cable operator will bring within its ambit hotels, restaurants, private hospitals, private educational institutions, bars, clubs, pubs, guesthouses, cinema halls, theatres, stadiums etc. There should however be clear distinction for institutions like government hospitals and school which are already subsidized and do not commercially exploit broadcasting service by offering it as a value added service packaged with other services.

CUTS International was also of the view that the rates for commercial consumers should not be fixed and left to their mutual negotiating power.

Regarding providing safeguard for those commercial consumers who are only paying the cable operator and do not have written agreements with the broadcasters, Lamba suggested that TRAI should mandate them to enter into agreements with their respective service provider and register the agreement with the authority. TRAI should specify a formula for revenue sharing among service providers which could for instance be equal revenue sharing amongst all service providers.