NEW DELHI :
The Bombay high court has not passed an interim order in the case relating to the television broadcasters’ petition challenging the amended new tariff order (NTO) of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The court, which will hear the matter again on 30 January, has granted leave for the broadcasters to file a rejoinder to the response that the regulator was supposed to provide to the petition by 20 January.
The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had moved the Bombay High Court against Trai’s amended new tariff order (NTO), first issued in December 2018 and implemented in February 2019. Meanwhile, the telecom regulator has filed caveats in all major high courts against issuing a stay without hearing what it has to say in the matter.
According to NTO 2019, consumers could choose the TV channels they want to watch and pay only for them at maximum retail prices (MRPs) set by broadcasters, instead of the pre-set bouquets offered earlier. The new tariff order was expected to make channels cheaper for the consumer and offer more choice. However, on ground, the opposite happened as the cost of like-to-like channel options went up.
To bring down the cost of entertainment for the end consumer, Trai announced amendments to the NTO on 1 January. As part of the new amendments, Trai has reduced the cap on the MRP of individual channels, which can form part of any bouquet, to Rs. 12 from Rs. 19 per month, which the IBF says has not been backed by any logical rationale or consumer insight. The regulator has also sought to impose twin conditions for bouquet formation, effectively introducing a cap on bouquet pricing, which broadcasters feel will limit the number of channels in the bouquet and reduce the value delivered to consumers.
In regard to the regulator removing discounts on bouquets and not on a-la-carte channels, broadcasters say they expect a market facing and non-discriminatory approach to regulation.
Broadcasters that have come together under the IBF umbrella to take on Trai include Star India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, and Sony Pictures Networks.
In a press briefing last week, Trai had called NTO 2.0 a fine-tuning exercise. “The purpose of NTO always was to ensure transparency and non-discrimination. We just felt a few things were either left out or distorted in the earlier provision and the idea was to straighten those out, provide more content to the consumer at the same price," Trai chairman R.S. Sharma had said.