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Star appeals in Delhi HC against TRAI letter in commercial subs matter

MUMBAI: Star India has filed an application in the Delhi High Court against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) letter to broadcasters directing them not to provide signals to commercial subscribers directly.

The application has been filed under the main petition through which the broadcaster has challenged the TRAI’s tariff order that puts commercial subscribers on a par with ordinary subscribers. It will come up for hearing on 25 May.

The broadcaster has pleaded that the court must modify its 15 May order by staying the regulation as well as the direction of TRAI in the wake of the letter.

TRAI had issued letters to broadcasters on 11 May, directing them to comply with provisions of Clause 5.6 of ‘Policy Guidelines for Downlinking of Television Channels’ dated 5 December 2011.

The clause says that the broadcasters can provide satellite TV channel signal reception decoders only to cable TV, direct-to-home (DTH), internet protocol television (IPTV), or headend-in-the-sky (HITS) operators.

TRAI said that some TV channel broadcasters are providing signals directly to commercial subscribers in contravention of Clause 5.6 of the guidelines. Asking broadcasters not to resort to such practice, the authority asked them to furnish a compliance report within 30 days from the date of issue of the letter.

A similar letter was issued to hotel associations asking them to advise its members not to take signals directly from broadcasters and issue a compliance report within 30 days from the date of issue of the letter.

Incidentally, the TRAI letter was issued just four days prior to the pronouncement of the Delhi HC order on 15 May.

While disposing of the application, the bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw directed TRAI to determine fresh tariff in terms of the judgment of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) dated 9 March 2015.

The bench directed TRAI not to consider itself bound by the regulations impugned in this petition in any manner whatsoever.

However, in the event the main petition fails, the different tariff, if any, provided in the said tariff order for commercial subscribers will also stand quashed.

Star India had challenged the tariff order for commercial subscribers in the Delhi HC on 20 August. It had filed an application for a stay on the operation of the tariff orders for commercial subscribers.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had challenged the tariff order in the TDSAT on 14 August.

While setting aside the tariff order, the TDSAT directed TRAI to undertake a fresh exercise and consider afresh the question whether commercial subscribers should be treated equally as home viewers, or there needs to be a different and separate tariff system for commercial subscribers or some parts of that larger body.

Subsequently, the Federation of Hotel and Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI) filed an appeal seeking quashing of the TDSAT order. The matter has been adjourned to 20 July following a request by the FHRAI for adjournment of the case.