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TRAI tariff issue back in Supreme Court

TRAI seeks clarifications on 15% discount cap; hearing next week

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NEW DELHI: The twists and turns in the case of a new tariff regime being sought to be implemented by broadcast and telecoms regulator TRAI continues. It has filed a petition in the Supreme Court on the issue of 15 per cent cap on discount on a bouquet price of TV channels to consumers that had been set aside by Madras High Court while upholding TRAI’s right to regulate the broadcast sector.

On a matter that’s complicated, TRAI’s petition, in layman’s language, exhorts the Supreme Court to set aside that portion of the high court judgement that frowns on the 15 per cent cap on discounts on bouquet prices of TV channels.   

The Madras High Court, while upholding most of the TRAI tariff order --- issued middle of 2016 and challenged by Star India and Vijay TV later that year on grounds of overstepping of jurisdiction --- had struck down as arbitrary almost 18 months later the 15 per cent cap on bouquet prices.

With the case finally disposed of by the Supreme Court earlier this year, upholding the high court’s views, TRAI had issued a notification stating that India’s broadcast and cable industry stakeholders implement its tariff regime in phases and report on compliance.

As the final compliance deadline nears the end of the year, the new twist in the tariff tale --- nudged by an appeal of Chandigarh-headquartered MSO Fastway in disputes tribunal TDSAT --- may add to the ambiguity and result in further delays in signing of contracts between TV channels and distribution platforms.

A hearing of the fresh TRAI petition is likely early next week. Keep tuned in for soap-opera type twists in the script.

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