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Television broadcasters move Bombay HC against TRAI revised Tariff Order

Omkar Gokhale

With just two days to submit revised Television Channels tariffs, several television broadcasters have moved the Bombay High Court challenging new Tariff Order by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The Press note issued by TRAI on January 1 containing amendments to Tariff Order for pricing of television channels directed broadcasters to unveil their new prices by January 15. Moreover, the regulatory authority proposed certain ceiling on pricing of television channels and noted that such changes will go into effect on March 1.

Opposing these conditions, organisations such as Film and Television Producers Guild of India, Indian Broadcasting Foundation and broadcasters including Sony Pictures, Star India, Disney, Zee Entertainment, Asianet Star Communications and others filed pleas seeking a stay on the new Tariff order.

On Monday, the plea was briefly mentioned before a Division Bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla and petitioners sought urgent hearing on the same. Senior Counsel Ravi Kadam mentioned the plea for one of the petitioners.

It was claimed that amendments are to be implemented on short notice and broadcasters are facing various difficulties in that regard.

As per press release issued by TRAI on January 1, broadcasters are required to publish revised MRP of channels and bouquets on their website by January 15, 2020, whereas DPOs have to comply with the directions by January 30, 2020. These prices will go into effect on March 1.

The said press note pertains to amendments made to Tariff Order, Interconnection Regulations and Quality of Services Regulations of 2017 for Broadcasting and Cable Services sector. Comprehensive Regulatory Framework for Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) was framed by TRAI on March 3, 2017.

Furthermore, the TRAI notified new rules that would allow broadcasters to include a channel in a pack only if it is priced at Rs 12 or less. Earlier, it had allowed broadcasters to include a channel inside a bouquet if it was priced at Rs 19 or below.

In light of this, the TRAI came up with conditions to protect the interest of consumers and accordingly modified certain provisions of regulatory network.

The TRAI in its press release stated that amendments provide appropriate time to stakeholders for implementation.

It was stated further by TRAI,

“Consumers will be able to benefit as per the amended provisions with effect from 1st March 2020. The Authority is of the view that the amendments will usher in better consumer offerings, more flexible tariff schemes and more choices for consumers. Overall, the amendments are expected to result in healthier & structured growth of the Broadcasting and Cable Services sector.”

In this regard, it is claimed by the broadcasters that such conditions are manifestly arbitrary and without application of mind and there is no justification given to reduce the said ceiling from Rs. 19 to Rs. 12.

The Court has posted the matter for hearing on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.