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Supreme Court allows TRAI to notify tariff order

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) can now notify the tariff order and interconnect regulations for the broadcast sector.

Allowing TRAI to go ahead with its tariff order notification, the Supreme Court on Friday said: “Any new cause of action arising from notifying the regulation can be taken up before the high court.”

While TRAI is free to come out with its notification, the apex court said that the Madras High Court will continue to hear the case. A bench, comprising justices PC Ghose and Rohinton F. Nariman, said that TRAI cannot seek an adjournment.

Star and Vijay TV had challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction to fix price of content. The two parties contend that TRAI has overstepped its jurisdiction and violated the Copyright Act, which deals with all aspects of exploitation and monetisation of content.

Since TRAI’s regulation will take at least 30 days to become effective, Star India will have the time to move the high court and seek a stay.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that Star India had enough time to either move the high court for staying the notification or file a fresh petition against it.

The apex court also asked the Madras High Court to dispose of the case within two months. Trai had submitted its tariff order and interconnect regulations in a sealed cover to the top court.

Star India was represented by senior counsel P Chidambaram. Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and Videocon DTH counsel were also present at the hearing.

In the draft order issued in October 2016, TRAI had proposed a distribution model for TV channels in which broadcasters fix the maximum retail price (MRP) within the price cap set by the sector regulator for selling directly to the subscribers. The high-definition (HD) channels are also under price cap; however, the premium channels have been excluded from price cap under the proposed new regime.

As per the genre caps prescribed by TRAI, sports channels have the highest price ceiling at Rs 19. General entertainment channels have a price ceiling of Rs 12. The ceiling for movie channels is Rs 10. Kids and infotainment channel cannot be priced above Rs 7 and 9 respectively. The cap for news channels is Rs 5 while for devotional channels it is Rs 3. The cost of an HD channel cannot exceed three times the cost of a corresponding SD

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