Trai tariff case: Tdsat interim directions on 31 August

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) said Monday it would give interim directions on 31 August on the plea by broadcasters seeking the stay of the Tariff order on addressable systems including DTH issued by Trai on 21 July.

Tdsat also said today it would hear the four petitions on 14 September. The petitions have been filed by Zee Turner, ESPN software, Star Den and MSM Discovery.
The principal bench of the tribunal said Trai should file its reply by 6 September and the petitioners can file their counter affidavit before the matter comes up for hearing.

All the four petitions have raised the same prayer, seeking quashing of the Trai Tariff order of 21 July. The petitions are largely similar in the arguments raised by them.

Furthermore, as the order is to come into effect from 1 September, the petitioners sought a stay of the order until the petition is disposed off.

Appearing for Trai, senior advocate Meet Malhotra said that the new tariff would be effective operationally from 1 October 1, due to the billing cycle.

"The new tariff, between operators would become effective not before first week of October," said Malhotra.

He further suggested the tribunal to hear all four cases filed by the broadcasters collectively and pass orders.

The Tariff order puts the cap for television content in address digital systems at 35 per cent of the existing analogue cable TV pricing.  
Zee Turner in its petition has said that the ceiling of 35 per cent in the non-Cas rates in the Tariff order of 21 July is wholly arbitrary, irrational, and untenable. The justification for this is contrary to settled principles of law and contrary to Article 14 of the Constitution.

The petition says that instead of improving the methodology of counting subscribers in non-Cas areas, the Trai order would have the effect of eliminating incentives for the industry to achieve addressability. It is a known fact that the exact number of subscribers in non-Cas areas is not clear because of under-declaration, and therefore there has been non-application of mind while issuing the order, the petition added.

The petition said that Trai had adopted perverse methodology by calculating subscriber content cost per annum at Rs 287 in analogue in non-Cas areas and comparing this with the subscriber content cost of Rs 709 per annum in DTH areas, and thus arriving at an inference that the discount of 59.6 per cent is required to be given to DTH operators by broadcasters and content providers.

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