Trai’s draft tariff order in conflict with Copyright Act: TV broadcasters

Broadcasters say content regulation is governed by the provisions of the Copyright Act and does not fall within the Trai’s domain


In the October draft, Trai had proposed a new tariff framework for pricing and packaging of TV channels offered to subscribers, defining channel genres and a genre-wise ceiling on the channel prices. Photo: Mint
In the October draft, Trai had proposed a new tariff framework for pricing and packaging of TV channels offered to subscribers, defining channel genres and a genre-wise ceiling on the channel prices. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: A draft regulatory order issued in October to cap television channel tariffs will conflict with copyright laws and harm consumer interest, broadcasters said.

Content regulation is governed by the provisions of the Copyright Act and does not fall within the Telecom Regularity Authority of India’s (Trai) domain, broadcasters said in comments published on the Trai website on the draft telecommunication (broadcasting and cable services) (eighth) (addressable systems) tariff order.

“The draft tariff order if implemented in its current form and shape, may pose multiple challenges in implementation and would be detrimental to the consumer interest,” said Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) in its comments.

In the October draft, Trai had proposed a new tariff framework for pricing and packaging of TV channels offered to subscribers, defining channel genres and a genre-wise ceiling on the channel prices.

ALSO READ: Trai may appeal against Madras HC order on draft broadcast tariff regulations

According to the order, Trai had asked the broadcasters to fix the maximum retail price (excluding taxes) for à la carte pay channels. The order had further listed seven genres for television channels, down from current 11 and had also fixed a maximum price for each genre.

In its response, Zee said that the cost of the content is determined by market forces and the intellectual property/copyright owners under the Copyright Act are free to recover the perceived value of the content. “But under the Trai regulation/tariff order, the broadcaster/content owner distributing the said content through its channels is not allowed to charge the realistic market value and will be bound by the restriction of the genre cap/ceiling imposed on a particular channel prescribed by Trai,” it added.

Sony Pictures Network, which runs several entertainment and sports channels, agreed that the draft order if implemented will suffer from a lack of jurisdiction. Given that television broadcasters as the owners of the content are governed by the Copyright Act, “Trai ought not to do anything that would amount to a dilution of the unfettered rights granted to us thereunder,” said Sony in its comments.

Earlier in December, Star India Pvt. Ltd and its subsidiary, Vijay Television Pvt. Ltd had also filed a petition in Madras HC against Trai, information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and the Department of Telecom on similar grounds, after which HC asked Trai not to pass any guidelines on tariff issues in the broadcast sector.

Following the Madras HC order, the regulator has moved Supreme Court through a special leave petition. “Trai is trying to bring transparency in the industry by regulating the broadcast distribution system. We have the mandate to regulate tariff, interconnection and quality of service issues in the sector,” a Trai official had said, speaking to Mint earlier.

The high court will resume hearing on 12 January.

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