Star seeks 10 days from TRAI even as some broadcasters publish RIO

MUMBAI: Broadcaster Star India has written to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) seeking 10 more days to publish its reference interconnect offer (RIO) under the new tariff order regime. As per TRAI’s notification, the broadcasters had to publish their RIOs or channel rate cards by 2 May.

A majority of broadcasters have yet to publish their RIOs on their websites. Until the filing of this report, the broadcasters who have published their RIOs include TV18, Viacom18, Sun TV Network and Disney India Broadcasting.

Star, which is embroiled in a legal battle with TRAI over the new tariff order and regulation, is awaiting TRAI’s response.

“Star had formally requested TRAI on 2 May seeking more time to publish the RIO. It is waiting for their response before publishing RIO,” said a source familiar with the development.

Star had moved the SC after the Madras HC refused to grant a stay order. The broadcaster had filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court seeking a stay on TRAI’s tariff order and interconnection regulation until the Madras High Court decided on the issue of jurisdiction, which is scheduled for 12 June.

The broadcaster is hoping to get a favourable verdict from the apex court before it closes for vacation. Not just Star, many other broadcasters have adopted a wait-and-watch policy.

The broadcasters who have published RIOs may modify it later, as permitted by the TRAI regulation. As per TRAI guidelines, such changes can be made after giving a 30-day time.

Sources have said that many broadcasters are waiting in the wings to challenge the TRAI tariff order and interconnection regulation in the courts. The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) is also contemplating intervening in the Star India matter in the SC. However, everything hinges on how soon the SC hears the matter.

Star India is vigorously pursuing the matter in the courts before publishing its RIO since it feels that the new regime will be irreversible once it comes into force. It is expecting a favourable verdict in the Madras HC where it has challenged TRAI’s writ to frame tariff for TV channels.

While the other broadcasters have not joined Star in the Madras High Court, some of them may decide to take the legal route challenging TRAI’s pricing and other mechanisms in the new tariff and interconnection regulation.

Meanwhile, the seven multi-system operators (MSOs) affiliated to the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) have published on their respective websites their RIO, carriage, target market and channel capacity, and channels offered, in compliance with the TRAI’s interconnection regulation. The carriage fee rate card uploaded by the MSOs has a uniform rate of 0.20 paisa for SD and 0.40 paisa for HD channels. The seven members are Hathway Cable & Datacom, DEN Networks, Siti Networks, InDigital, Fastway Transmission, GTPL Hathway and ICNCL.

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