Regulators

Trai vs. Star case: next SC hearing on Sept. 18

Even as tariff matter drags on, most b’casters publish new rates

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MUMBAI: The Supreme Court has deferred the hearing of Star India’s petition against TRAI tariff and inter-connect order to 18 September 2018 due to insufficient time. This is the fourth time in this month that the hearing has been deferred. Despite the impending ruling, several broadcasters have already published their RIOs.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) was first out of the blocks in publishing the RIO, declaring the MRP and nature of channels in connection with its tariff order , which had a 31 August deadline. The Punit Goenka-led company was followed by TV18 Broadcast Limited ( TV18), Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited (SPNI), who adhered to the regulator’s directive on September 4. Later, Disney India, Turner India International, Sun TV Networks have also published their RIOs in compliance with the order.

All the broadcaster have stuck to a maximum 15 per cent MRP discount to distributors. Earlier, Madras High Court chief justice did not uphold TRAI’s proposal of allowing highest 15 per cent cap on discounts despite giving the go-ahead to all other proposals. As any clarification did not come from TRAI, all the broadcasters are adhering to the order to avoid any further confusion.

The TRAI tariff orders, first contested in Madras High Court by the petitioners, were cleared by the Chennai court with certain riders after hearings that continued almost over 16 months in front of two benches of the court.

Though the petitioners were unable for comments, a legal eagle explained that the very fact the Supreme Court has allotted a day for hearing the petition of Star India and Vijay TV, which basically revolves around copyright and why the regulator doesn’t have jurisdiction over such issues, highlights the fact that the judge doesn’t want to take a decision in a hurry.

After the Madras HC had given a thumb up to TRAI tariff order, and both the petitioners and the defendant (TRAI) had filed caveats in the Supreme Court, the regulator had bowled a googly saying that its tariff order would come into effect from 3 July 2018 () as all judicial compliances had been completed.

“Having complied with  the  judicial  mandates  in  the  matter,  the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems)  Tariff   Order, 2017 and  the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 as upheld by the Hon'ble Madras High  Court and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards  of   Quality  of  Service and  Consumer  Protection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 come into effect from 3rd July 2018,” the regulator had said in a statement pointing out that all timelines mentioned in the original order should be adhered to immediately.

According to TRAI, implementation of the new regulatory framework will “bring in transparency”, enable provisioning of affordable broadcasting and cable TV services for the consumer and, at the same time, “would lead to an orderly growth of the sector”.

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