The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued new directions for all Cable and Direct to Home (DTH) operators regarding the listing of channels in the electronic program guide, also known as EPG, on their platforms. This is a reaffirmation of the new guidelines for cable TV and DTH, as introduced by the new tariff order which became applicable on February 1, though has been extended till the end of March to allow for a smooth transition of all subscribers across India to the new tariff plans.
The new directions clearly state that all broadcasters (such as Star India, Sony Pictures Network and TV18) need to declare the genre of each channel they offer to the cable and DTH platforms. This means that every broadcaster has to specify which genre each channel is categorized as a part of—for instance, General Entertainment, Infotainment, Kids, Movies, Sports, News and Current Affairs or Miscellaneous.
The regulator has also clarified that all distributors such as cable TV and DTH operators, such as TataSky, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct, Hathway and Den, need to place the channels in the EPG along with other channels of its genre, as declared by the broadcasters. These channels need to be placed consecutively. At no point should any operator list the same channel more than once in their EPG—this means each channel should only have one logical channel number (LCN) in their EPG, and not multiple LCNs.
All cable TV and DTH operators are required to assign a channel number for each channel they distribute on their platform, and once the channel number is assigned, this cannot be altered for a period of one year from the date of assignment. However, TRAI has clarified that if the broadcaster alters the genre of the channel at any point during that time, then the operators can also change the placement of the channel to match the new genre.
What the guidelines don’t clarify at the moment is what happens to the ‘services’ that DTH and cable TV operators tend to offer, which are available for access by pressing a special button on the remote control for the set top box (STB).
The new guidelines are a part of the new tariff regime for broadcasters, cable TV and DTH operators to follow, and these dictate the pricing of the channels by the broadcasters, as well as the subscription packages and the network capacity fee (NCF) which the operators are allowed to offer to users.