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Tdsat refuses to stay TRAI’s tariff order for commercial subscribers

MUMBAI: After securing no relief from the Delhi High Court, the broadcasters have now failed to get reprieve from the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) tariff order for commercial subscribers.

Even as it refused to stay the tariff order, the tribunal said that the existing agreements between broadcasters and commercial establishments will be dormant but not annulled.

This means that the commercial establishments which have made advance payments to broadcasters cannot ask for any refund. Similarly, broadcasters who were raising monthly invoices against commercial establishments cannot do so till the final outcome of the matter.

The tribunal made this observation following a request by the Federation of Hotel and Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI) that they should be allowed to terminate their existing agreements with broadcasters and seek refunds on advance payments. The tribunal rejected the FHRAI’s plea.

In case the amended tariff order is stayed, the rights and liabilities of the broadcasters will be determined at a later stage. The tribunal has decided to complete the pleadings by 27 October and has posted the matter for hearing on 18 November.

However, in case of fresh deals, the parties concerned have to follow the amended tariff order that came into effect on 16 July.

As per the amended tariff order, commercial subscribers cannot obtain television service directly from the broadcasters and have to do so only from a distribution platform.

Further, the commercial establishments that do not charge its customers for providing television programmes are to be treated like ordinary subscribers and should be charged on per-television basis.

However, in cases where commercial subscribers specifically charge their customers for providing television content, the tariff would be as mutually agreed between the broadcaster and the commercial subscriber.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had challenged the tariff order on 14 August while Star India had challenged the regulation as well as the tariff order in the Delhi High Court on 20 August.

The HC, while not granting a stay to Star, had asked TRAI to file its reply and posted the matter for hearing on 26 September. ZEEL had also impleaded itself in the Star India case.

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