High court refuses to interfere with TV broadcast tariff rulesUpdated: Jan 15, 2020 00:33 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday refused to interfere with the recent amendment to the television broadcast regulations, introduced by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently.
The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), a representative body of TV broadcasters, and some individual broadcasters, had moved court on Monday, challenging the new regulation introduced by TRAI on January 1.
To rationalise the sector tariff and address issues raised by consumers, TRAI amended tariff rules for cable and digital television broadcasters, imposing certain restrictions on the pricing of a-la-carte rates for channels and rates for bouquet of channels.
New rules permit only those channels which have a maximum retail price (MRP) of ₹12 or less to be a part of the bouquet offered by broadcasters and a mandatory provision of 200 channels in a maximum network connection fee of ₹130, excluding the taxes, per month. Earlier, only 100 free channels were being provided to viewers on paying the same network connection fee. Besides, the channels declared mandatory by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, will not be part of these 200 channels.
The broadcasters and their representative body have primarily contended that the new tariff rules were arbitrary and violated the fundamental right to profession of them.
Janak Dwarkadas, who represented the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, pointed out that one of the procedural requirements of the new rules requires broadcasters to publish new tariff rates by January 15.
The senior advocate said TRAI has given additional 15 days to distribution platform operators to publish the tariff rates on their websites, failing which they would incur penal liabilities. Dwarkadas submitted that earlier TRAI gave a 60-day deadline to broadcasters to publish the tariff rates and now the process is being abruptly fast forwarded. Adding that there were serious implications of the non-compliance, he requested the court to restrain TRAI from taking any coercive step against the petitioners.
Senior advocate DJ Khambata, who represented another petitioner, pointed out that the non-compliance on the TRAI directives will result in penal consequences for the broadcasters, including suspension or even revocation of their licenses.
Appearing for TRAI, senior advocate VR Dhond responded to the petition, saying a few broadcasters have ganged-up and filed petitions challenging the new rules at the eleventh hour and are now seeking interim orders on the ground of urgency. He strongly opposed the plea for interim relief and urged the court to grant TRAI a week’s time to file affidavit in reply to the petitions.
The division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice RI Chagla acceded to his request and adjourned the petitions for hearing on January 22, without any interim order. It, however, said nothing of the sort apprehended by the petitioners happen when the matter is pending before high court.