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Broadcasters need to publish RIO on 2 May as SC declines to hear early Star’s plea against TRAI’s tariff order

MUMBAI: Broadcasters will need to publish the RIO (reference interconnect offer) rate of their channels today (2nd May) as the Supreme Court has declined to hear early the plea of Star India against the Madras High Court’s refusal to grant stay on TRAI’s tariff order.

Taking its legal fight against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff order and interconnection regulation to the Supreme Court, Star India on Monday sought an immediate hearing of its petition. The broadcaster was challenging Clause 3 of TRAI’s tariff order and Clause 7 of the interconnection regulation.

However, Chief Justice JS Khehar said that the matter would be listed in due course. It is pertinent to note that the court will go on vacation from 9 May.

The broadcaster had earlier sought a stay from Madras High Court, which refused to grant the stay noting that the petitioner had not made a strong case for a stay order.

With stay ruled out by the bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and justice M Sundar in the Madras High Court, broadcasters would have to issue RIO by 2 May.

TRAI had submitted before the court that the commercial contracts under the new regime would take effect from 1 September.

As per the amended Clause 3 (b) of the tariff order, broadcasters are required to declare the nature of a channel as pay or free to air (FTA), as well as the maximum retail price (MRP) of the channel, 60 days from the date of the publication of the tariff order in the official gazette. The tariff order along with the interconnection regulation was published on 3 March.

Broadcasters will have to publish the MRP and nature of channels on 2 May. After declaration of RIO by the broadcaster, a distribution platform operator (DPO) can make a request and the broadcaster has a month’s time (from the date of receipt of request) to sign the agreement. The commercial operation of the agreement will start only from 1 September, Trai counsel had submitted.

The Madras High Court will, however, hear the main petition on the issue of jurisdiction of TRAI to fix price of TV content on 12 June.

TRAI notified the tariff order and interconnection regulation on 3 March following a go-ahead from the Supreme Court. The SC had also stated that the Madras HC could continue to hear the issue of jurisdiction.

While retaining most of the recommendations, TRAI had removed the genre-wise price ceiling. The authority said that any channel priced above Rs 19 could not be part of the bouquet.

In December 2016, Star and Vijay had challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction to fix price of content. The Madras HC ordered TRAI to maintain status quo.

Irked by the order, TRAI filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court, which allowed the regulator to frame regulations with the condition that the same be placed before the apex court before being notified.

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