The distribution platform operators (DPOs) are upset that DD Free Dish offers paid channels for free.
DD FreeDish is a free-to-air (FTA) DTH service with no monthly fee and can be accessed with a one-time payment for the dish and Set-Top box.
Cable operators and DTH operators are referred to collectively as DPOs.
Pay Channels Are Available For Free
Among the channels offered for a fee are:
- Star Utsav
- Colors Rishtey
- Zee Anmol
- Sony Pal
- Big Magic Ganga
- Filamchi Bhojpuri
- Zee Punjabi etc
DTH services typically charge between Rs 1- Rs 5 for these channels.
Major Broadcasters At Fault
Direct-to-home (DTH) giants Airtel Digital TV and Tata Sky target broadcasters who own the channels you mentioned and offer them for free on DD FreeDish.
ZEE, Sony Pictures Networks India, Star & Disney India, and Viacom18 are among these broadcasters.
Missing Out On Huge Subscriber Base
DD FreeDish has 40 million subscribers, owned by Prasar Bharati.
Private distribution platforms are missing out on this sizable audience, which is over 25% of all TV households in the country and is now being captured unfairly.
The high rural viewership is also out of reach for private broadcasters.
Together, the other DTH operators have 69.57 million subscribers.
Furthermore, they claim that they have been receiving complaints from customers who can now access the channels for free.
Harit Nagpal, managing director and chief executive officer of Tata Sky, said the company has received such complaints since a year ago.
TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) was also contacted, but no response was received.
Nagpal said that if they don’t get a response, they will have to go to court.
The TRAI has issued a new tariff order (NTO) that requires broadcasters to declare their channels as free-to-air or pay channels.
In the case of pay channels, they must prescribe MRPs, which DTH operators must pay to broadcasters to obtain the right to distribute them.
MRP must be uniform across all distribution channels, so differential pricing for any DPO will be prohibited.
TRAI Indirectly Addresses Problem
The TRAI is said to be aware of the current situation.
One of the FAQs on its website talks about why DD Free Dish shows pay channels as free.
The answer is that the nature of a channel must be the same for all addressable platforms and must be “in correspondence with the concerned persons”.
NTO might not cover DD Free Dish.
NTO does not apply to it because it has unencrypted transmissions and is not an ‘addressable system’.
A distributor can set any price for pay channels (even a zero cost) if it doesn’t exceed the channel’s MRP prescribed by broadcasters.
However, broadcasters are not permitted to offer discounts to distributors beyond these caps.