New Delhi: The Anil Ambani group’s broadcast arm Reliance Big TV on Thursday moved the Supreme Court against the TDSAT’s order, overturning the sector regulator Trai’s directive to broadcasters to charge DTH service providers only 35% of the rates paid by cable operators.
A bench comprising justice R. V. Raveendran and justice A. K. Patnaik admitted Reliance Big TV’s plea and tagged it along with the other petitions filed by Trai (Telecom Regulatory and Authority of India) and other DTH operators.
Earlier, the apex court in its interim order on 18 April, had stayed the TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal) order as a temporary measure, besides fixing the fees from DTH operators at a ceiling of 42% instead of 35% till the time the matter was pending in the court.
The court had also added that the agreements between DTH operators and broadcasters, which are already in place, shall prevail.
Passing an order on 16 December 2010, TDSAT had set aside sectoral regulator Trai’s notification mandating that broadcasters charge service providers on platforms such as DTH, IPTV and HITSonly up to 35% of rates paid by cable operators for beaming their channels.
On 16 December, the TDSAT had set aside Trai’s tariff saying that it should undertake a detailed study on the issue and decide the rates afresh.
The tribunal had also observed that Trai has no powers to regulate the interconnection agreement between broadcasters and operators as it does for the telecom sector.
Trai had on 21 July notified a new wholesale tariff structure under which broadcasters were to charge service providers on DTH, IPTV and HITS platforms only 35% of the rates they charged from cable operators for beaming their channels.
This was challenged by broadcasting houses - ESPN Software India, MSM Discovery, Zee Turner and Star Den Media Services - by filing separate petitions. They contended that the prices were not commercially viable.
They submitted that while fixing the tariff, Trai had acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner and did not consider the suggestions of the stakeholders.
However, Trai has submitted that it had considered all the available information before fixing the cap of 35%.
It further contended that broadcasters shall offer cheaper rates to operators like DTH and IPTV, as they can ascertain the number of subscribers of these players, which is not the case with cable services where under-reporting is believed to be very high.