Broadcasters to file cases individually against Trai order on channel pricing

NEW DELHI: A general consensus has emerged in the broadcasting industry that individual pay TV players would legally challenge the sector regulator’s directive on fixing pay channel prices at Rs 5 in CAS notified areas.

A pay broadcaster today admitted that at a meeting held today under the aegis of Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) there was “unanimity” that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai)-mandated prices should be challenged.

Says Star Group India CEO Peter Mukerjea, "Taking legal recourse is certainly an active option as fixing of prices of non-essential services (like cable TV) is tantamount to encroaching on our fundamental right of doing business."

“Since no industry body can move a court or a disputes tribunal challenging the pricing, it has been decided that individual companies will legally challenge Trai’s order,” a member of the IBF today said after the meeting.

However, it has also been clarified that the onus of challenging the Trai tariff order will lie on individual broadcasters and “every pay broadcaster” need not necessarily legally dispute it.
“A broadcasting company will have to take its own call on the matter,” another broadcaster-member of the IBF added after today’s meeting, which also discussed draft points on a proposed broadcast legislation being contemplated by the government.

Broadcasters are also seeking legal opinion on how to approach the whole issue of pricing and whether it would make more sense to approach disputes tribunal TDSAT or high courts in various parts of the country.

However, with the TDSAT presently being headless and not taking up industry issues, the tribunal might not be top priority for the broadcasters.

Over the next 15 days, expect a spate of cases in various courts challenging the Trai tariff order on cable TV pricing in CAS areas. Unless, of course, the regulator and the government step in to mitigate another legal imbroglio that threatens to engulf rollout of CAS from 1 January 2007.

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