Cable operators will not be allowed to offer cheap subscription packages by leaving out news channels or popular TV channels from their channel lineup, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said.
By law, cable operators must have their proposed subscription fees approved by either the commission or local governments every year before they implement the new prices, even if they keep the fees unchanged.
The commission is reviewing subscription fees proposed by seven cable operators in four cities and counties, it said.
The commission said it has been encouraging cable operators to replace their flat-rate schemes with a tiered scheme, adding that four of the cable operators have adopted the tiered system, offering plans costing from NT$188 to NT$600 per month.
The flat-rate scheme requires all subscribers to pay the same fee to access all channels available in a cable system, whereas the tiered scheme gives subscribers the option to choose the channels they prefer by offering them different combinations of channels and setting different fees for each combination, the commission said.
“However, we have found that some of the proposed plans do not match the viewing habits of subscribers in their respective service areas and the fees they have set for the plans do not accurately reflect the value of the channels included in the plans. We have asked them [the cable operators] to provide reasonable explanations for the discrepancies,” the commission said in a statement.
Plans that cost NT$200 to NT$400 per month are particularly problematic, commission spokesperson Weng Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said.
“The channels included in those packages are must-carry channels [terrestrial TV channels], shopping channels and some other less popular channels. None of the channels that most people like to watch, such as news, variety shows and movie channels, are included,” Weng said.
“We have asked [the cable operators] whether the channels in those packages command the prices that they have set for them. If we simply approve the prices without scrutinizing them, it would defeat the purpose of encouraging cable operators to adopt the tiered scheme, which is aimed at giving subscribers a say on the channels they want to watch and protect their right to access content,” he said.
The commission would also examine the costs that cable systems must pay to see if they have set reasonable prices for each package, including the authorization fees that they have to pay to content providers and the cost of maintaining the installed cables, Weng said.
The commission had previously proposed a formula for cable operators to design various packages.
Apart from 13 must-carry channels, each package must contain 10 channels from five categories: news, children and youth, TV drama, movie and educational channels.
Cable system operators, on the other hand, may add a certain number of channels to each package, according to the formula.
The Satellite Television Broadcasting Association called for more transparency in the government’s proposed implementation of the tiered scheme, saying that the government should not bully channel operators by holding closed-door meetings with cable operators only.
“We will finalize the proposed formula as soon as possible and collect input from all parties,” Weng said.
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