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Bombay HC resumes TV tariff hearing

The division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice RI Chagla had accepted petitions from top television broadcasters, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), and the Film & TV Producers Guild of India on January 14, and asked the regulator to respond within a week.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 31, 2020, 05.02 PM IST
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MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday resumed hearing in the cases filed against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), in the matter related to the new amendments to the broadcast sector tariff order.

The division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice RI Chagla had accepted petitions from of top television broadcasters, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), and the Film & TV Producers Guild of India on January 14th and asked regulator to respond within a week.

After the reply from the regulator and rejoinders from the petitioners, the court started the hearing today.

The counsel for Trai stated that the arguments should be based only on the petition and not on the rejoinder, to which senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, who was representing the guild, stated that there was nothing new in the rejoinder and that everything was available in public domain and on Trai’s website.

Dwarkadas argued that the amendments are absolutely “arbitrary” and “violates” natural justice. He stated that how the Interconnect regulations and tariff order of 2017 were first challenged in the Madras High Court and how the regulations came into effect after a 15% discount cap on bouquets was struck down.

He argued that within next six months Trai has introduced new tariff order and did not allow industry to settle down.

Opening his arguments on how the guild is affected by the new amendments, even though they do not come under the direct purview of Trai, he said that the new tariff order (NTO 2.0) affects the guild members’ income.

He explained that because of Rs 12 cap on pay channels in a bouquet, broadcasters will not be able to charge consumers, which will in turn affect their acquisition strategy.

“The broadcaster has to pay huge amount to acquire content provided by the Producers Guild of India. If the broadcaster has to incur more for acquiring content and if he is not able to include it in a bouquet, the broadcaster may prefer not to acquire such high priced content. Thus Article 19(1) (a) and Article 19(1) (g) of Producers Guild is violated,” he argued.

Further, if there is no quality content acquisition by a broadcaster, then the customer may not be able to watch quality content, Dwarkadas added.

He also read out certain para from the explanatory memorandum of regulations, which stated that broadcasters have the flexibility to decide the price of their pay channels and the customers should be able to view quality content on their TV. “But due to this arbitrary new tariff order, both these conditions are violated,” he said.

Another argument made by the senior counsel was that the data published by Trai reveals that 80% of viewers subscribe to bouquets, or only 20% of consumers subscribe to a la carte channels and despite being such majority subscribing to bouquets, Trai has failed to take a note of this.

The court has set February 12th as the next date for hearing and issued notice to the advocate general for the government’s response on the matter.
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