Regulators

Hearing to end next week in Madras HC on Star India challenge to TRAI Tariff order

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NEW DELHI: The Madras High Court was today told by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India counsel Saket Singh the reasons for moving from analogue to digital and the necessity of the new tariff order.

Concluding his arguments in the petition by Star India and Vijay TV challenging the jurisdiction of TRAI to issue tariff orders on the ground that content came under the Copyright Act, Singh said digital addressable system had led to greater transparency leading to the subscriber base going up, which led to higher advertising revenue.

While adjourning the matter for 17 July, the Court indicated that arguments will commence on behalf of intervenors All India Digital Cable Federation and Videcon d2h. This will be followed by rejoiner arguments by the petitioners, after which the court will reserve its orders.

Singh said the aim was to create level playing field for rates to distributor platforms  and give an effective and informed choice to the consumer.

The new tariff had asked broadcasters to declare their minimum retail price per channel to consumers and give a la carte price for pay channels. This would give greater cChoice to consumer.

The bench asked why HD and SD cHannels could not be regulated in the same bouquet. Singh also wondered why broadcasters are using this as one of the contentions as they themselves during the consultation process wanted HD and SD to be separated. They had also said so in their responses to the consultation paper on the subject.He said that the channels at that stage had only wanted the free-to-air and pay channels to be in separate boiuquets.

Singh showed to the court the broadcasters comments during consultation process.

He said prior to the tariff order, broadcaster would sell distribution right to multi-system ioperators at wholesale prices level and MSOs would accordingly sell to the consumers. Thus the consumer had no direct link to pricing.

The new tariff had taken away the power of distributors in terms of pricing and that has been given to the broadcaster. Hence they are the master of their channel and can price the consumer accordingly.

The consumer also got the right to refuse to pay for channels he did not watch. Singh also explained the concept of carriage fee.

Although the Supreme Court had in early May while staying the tariff order directed the Madras High Court to complete hearing within four weeks, the High Court had commenced the in the last week of June.

The hearing had commenced with the pleadings of counsel for the petitioners.

Meanwhile, TRAI TV reference interconnect offer (RIO) and Quality of service order (QoS) came into effect from 2 May following the order of the High Court.

In the hearing in April-end, it had said Section 3 of the Tariff order and all other consequences of such implementation/enforcement would be subject to the outcome of the main petition.

Apart from the Tariff order which had originally been issued on 10 October last year, the regulator also issued the DAS Interconnect Regulations which had been issued on 14 October last year, and the Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Digital Addressable Systems) Regulations which had been issued on 10 October last year.

The orders can be seen at:

http://trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/Tariff_Order_English_3%20March_20...

http://www.trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/QOS_Regulation_03_03_2017.pdf

http://www.trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/Interconnection_Regulation_03...

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