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NTO 2.0 case: No interim relief granted, to be heard on 12 Feb

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MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court has listed the next hearing of the ongoing case between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and broadcasters on the new tariff order (NTO) on 12 February. No interim relief has been granted yet which can be argued at the next hearing. It has also been directed to issue a notice to Maharashtra advocate general.

During Thursday’s hearing, the advocate for TRAI made a statement at the very beginning that the arguments should be based only on the petition and not on the rejoinder. Countering that, the advocate for Film & TV Producers Guild of India stated that there is nothing new in the rejoinder and everything is available in public domain.

He also touched upon the point of the newly imposed twin conditions levied in the amendment of new tariff order where one condition is the cap of Rs 12 in a bouquet, the other being the discount on channel bouquets to around 33 per cent.

Earlier, broadcasters were giving higher discounts pursuant to cross subsidies available by including smaller channels in its bouquets, which was totally in favour of consumers. He argued that if a consumer has to watch the so-called popular/niche channels (terms used by TRAI), he has to pay a higher price and it will increase his monthly bill.

He also continued that although they do not come under the direct purview of TRAI, the amendments in the tariff order can affect their revenue. As the regulatory body has put a cap of Rs 12 on pay channel that can be included in a bouquet,  the broadcaster cannot charge more than Rs 12 for that pay channel in a bouquet.

The broadcaster has to pay huge amount to acquire content. Due to the regulations, if the broadcaster is not able to include it in a bouquet, it  may prefer not to acquire such high priced content. Moreover, if broadcasters can not acquire quality content, the customer will lose.

While broadcasters have the flexibility to decide the price of its pay channel and the customer should be able to view quality content on his TV, both these conditions are violated by the order.

Earlier in the month, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) along with others has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court against the TRAI order. The petitioners mentioned that the as amendments which has been notified in “consumer interest," will have exactly the opposite effect, leading to crippling of the business of broadcasters and ultimate suffering of the consumer.

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