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Broadcasters challenge TRAI’s tariff orders for commercial subs in TDSAT

MUMBAI: The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Multi Screen Media (MSM), Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) and Viacom18 have challenged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff orders for commercial subscribers in the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The petitions were admitted on 24 September by the tribunal. The broadcasters have sought a stay on the tariff orders.

Issuing a notice to TRAI, the tribunal directed it to file its reply within three weeks from the date of service of the notice. Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the reply.

The matter has been put up ‘for directions’ on 2 November.

The broadcasters are irked by the definition of the term ‘commercial subscriber’ in the tariff orders for addressable and non-addressable systems that were issued on 8 September.

According to tariff orders, the subscribers who charge their clients separately to use the TV services will be classified as ‘commercial subscribers’, while all others will be ‘ordinary subscribers’.

This, the broadcasters say, will make other aspects of the tariff orders like tariff forbearance and allowing broadcasters to do tripartite deals with distributions platforms and commercial subscribers meaningless.

The authority had issued a consultation paper in July after its earlier tariff orders putting commercial subscribers on a par with ordinary subscribers were set aside by TDSAT in March.

While setting aside the amended tariff order, the tribunal had asked the TRAI to undertake a fresh exercise on a completely clean slate and issue fresh orders within six months.

The tribunal’s order was challenged by the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) in the Supreme Court where it is still pending.

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