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Broadcasters will have to publish RIO by 2 May, TRAI to Madras HC

MUMBAI: The Madras High Court has refused to pass an interim order on Star India and Vijay TV’s petition seeking a stay on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff order and interconnection regulation following an undertaking by the latter that the deadline for publishing the reference interconnect offer (RIO) has been extended to 2 May.

TRAI has told the High Court that the clause 3 of the tariff order which requires broadcasters to publishing RIO mentioning maximum retail price (MRP) and nature of the channel will only come into force 60 from the date of publishing in the gazette as opposed to 30 days prescribed earlier.

TRAI counsel Richardson Wilson said that the amended clause will be published in official gazette before 2 April which means that the clause 3 will come into force from 2 May.

Following TRAI’s undertaking, the HC decided to adjourn the matter to 3 April.

Meanwhile, TRAI began its submission in the matter. It will continue with its arguments on 3 April, following which the interveners the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) and Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) will take over.

Star India and Vijay TV had completed their submissions on 24 March. Appearing on behalf of Star and Vijay, senior counsel P Chidambaram had argued that TRAI’s action of fixing tariff for TV content is in violation of Copyright Act.

He had also submitted that TRAI does not have the jurisdiction to fix tariff since the exploitation of IPR is part of the Copyright Act. He also stated that a subordinate legislation, which is the TRAI Act, cannot override the principal legislation, which is the Copyright Act.

TRAI had notified the tariff order and interconnection regulation on 3 March after the Supreme Court gave it the go-ahead. The SC had earlier 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.

Earlier, the HC had disallowed the IBF and the AIDCF from impleading in the matter however they have been allowed to intervene in the matter.

In December 2016, Star and Vijay had challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction to fix the 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 SC, which allowed the regulator to frame regulations. However, the same would have to be placed before the apex court before being notified.

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