Regulators

Tata Sky vs TRAI: Delhi High Court adjourns case to 13 February

The TRAI's new tariff order came into effect on 1 February

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MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court on Friday adjourned Tata Sky’s ongoing legal battle, in which Discovery,  Bharti Telemedia-owned Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct are a part, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) and its new tariff regime to 13 February.

Earlier this week, the regulator had served Airtel a show-cause notice after several of its subscribers complained about a DTH blackout. Airtel Digital TV was handed a three-day period to respond to the notice.

TRAI chairman RS Sharma also addressed a press conference in the national capital, rubbishing a Crisil report that claimed cable and DTH bills were bound to increase after the implementation of the tariff order.

On Thursday, Indian Society of Advertisers' (ISA) executive council advised its members to not use the BARC data for media buying, planning and evaluation perspective during the transition periond, which it feels will stretch up to six weeks.

On 4 February, after senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing Tata Sky, concluded his arguments including legal submissions, Discovery India Communication’s counsel Gopal Jain laid the foundation for his arguments.

The broadcaster is likely to conclude its arguments during the next hearing of the case.

The regulator informed the court that the new tariff order has already been implemented from 1 February.

Earlier the TRAI had offered an extension till 31 January to the distribution platform operators (DPOs) for implementation.

On 24 January, the Harit Nagpal-led company finally unveiled the new pricing of channels and packs after it was served a show-cause notice by the TRAI.

TRAI's show-cause notice said, "Tata Sky has failed to provide options to its 17.7 million subscribers in compliance with the new framework to exercise their choices for TV channels. Tata Sky has put its subscribers in a situation of great difficulty despite no fault of theirs by not complying with the provisions of the new regulations and the tariff order.”

Despite the delay in announcing channel prices, Tata Sky MD and CEO Nagpal is confident that his team can complete the tricky task of implementing the new norms within a relatively short span of time.

“Tata Sky has always been compliant to regulatory requirements. We have gone live with our modes of communication across the Tata Sky website, Tata Sky mobile app and also equipped the dealers that subscribers can reach out to. We were confident that we would be able to complete the task in 1 week’s time. Hence we used this time to a seamless and smooth transition for all our subscribers. We have ensured that choosing channels and packs is as easy as 1, 2, 3 for any subscriber,” the veteran executive said.

On 29 January, Calcutta High Court stayed the cable switchover till 18 February. The court’s directive was a result of 80 cable operators from the city filing a petition against the TRAI mandate. However, the high court later vacated the stay.

The petitioners’ lawyer Debabrata Saha Roy argued that the revenue-sharing model under the new regime will significantly reduce the cable operators’ share to just nine per cent. With 80% will go into the broadcasters’ kitty, MSOs stand to get just 11 per cent, thus making it an unsustainable business proposition for operators.

In 2017, Bharti Telemedia, Tata Sky and Discovery Communication India had filed petitions against TRAI, challenging its tariff order and the interconnect regulations.

Unlike the position adopted by Star India wherein it questioned the regulatory powers of TRAI, the matter in the Delhi HC questions the regulator’s power to wipe out deals that operators enter into to fix commissions and rates for customers.

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