Technology

SC to hear plea against Trai's tariff order next month

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the broadcasters and multi-system operators to file additional affidavits within a month relating to a case on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (Trai) tariff proposal.


The apex court has also directed Trai to file its reply to the objections of the broadcasters within two weeks.


The matter came up for hearing today before a bench comprising Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan.


The court will now hear the objections by broadcasters and MSOs, opposing Trai‘s proposal for three pricing slabs of cable television with a maximum cap of Rs 250, later next month. 
 
The objections have been filed by broadcasters including Sony Group, Star India, Zee Turner, and some MSOs.


Earlier on 21 July, Trai had told the apex court in an affidavit that it planned to introduce three pricing slabs for cable television, with a maximum cap of Rs 250 to bring uniformity all over the country.


Trai had said it was considering limiting the monthly cable charge to Rs 100 per month for a minimum of 30 free-to-air channels. Subscribers opting for a basic package (which includes Doordarshan channels) with up to 20 pay channels will pay a monthly bill of Rs 200. But those taking a basic package with over 20 pay channels will have to pay Rs 250 per month.
 
Trai’s affidavit followed the apex court’s direction to formulate a comprehensive pricing mechanism for cable services in non-Cas areas after consulting various stakeholders.
The regulator said: "A retail price ceiling -- at a reasonable level -- that balances the consumers‘ interest with the growth potential of the industry is warranted in the case of cable TV services in non-Cas (conditional access system) markets. The Authority is of the view that the retail price cap for pay cable service should be fixed at Rs 250 per connection per month with the actual monthly bill being left to the business model of the individual operator -- subject to the ceiling."


While saying it was not in favour of allowing market forces to determine the rates of pay channels, Trai allowed broadcasters to raise the price of their channels and existing bouquets by nine per cent due to price inflation on the basis of the wholesale price index (WPI).


Upholding the orders of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) the apex court had on 13 May, 2009, directed the regulator to study afresh and issue a comprehensive order on the pricing issue in non-Cas areas of the country.


Later the Court had granted six months extra time in January and directed it to file its report by 30 June 2010 following a request by Trai.


The regulator has also filed a draft copy of the proposed Broadcasting and Cable Services Tariff Order, 2010, which would be notified after the court clears it.
 

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