Broadcasters move Bombay HC against TRAI amendments

MUMBAI: The broadcasters have moved the Bombay High Court challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (TRAI) recent amendments to the new regulatory framework.

Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), Star India, Disney India, ZEEL, Viacom18 and Producers Guild of India among others have independently filed writ petitions before the HC.

The matter was mentioned on Monday before the bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice RI Chagla. The bench will hear all the cases tomorrow.

The petitioners have challenged the amendments to the tariff order as well as the interconnection regulation. The main grouse of the petitioners is that the amendments will have an impact on their right to do business.

Earlier, the IBF members had come together in a show of strength to oppose the TRAI’s amendments. In a press conference, the broadcasters had discussed threadbare how the recent amendments will negatively impact the broadcasting sector.

IBF president NP Singh had highlighted four key issues about the new amendments that the broadcasters find problematic. These are 1) arbitrary reduction of MRP cap to Rs 12 from Rs 19, 2) Imposition of twin conditions on bouquet pricing, 3) restricting incentives only to a la carte, and 4) impact of network capacity fee (NCF) on consumer pricing.

The TRAI today held a press conference in which it clarified that the amendments will address the teething issues faced by the consumers while balancing the interests of broadcasters as-well-as the distribution platform operators (DPOs) to create a level playing field.

It further stated that these amendments are to address certain anomalies in the market which necessitated review for achieving the orderly growth of the sector. The regulator said that the amendments will usher in better offerings, reduced NCF, more flexible tariff schemes, and more choices for consumers.

TRAI had issued amendments to the regulatory framework for the Broadcasting and Cable Services Sector on 1st January 2020. The amended provisions will come into effect from 1st March 2020. Broadcasters may publish revised MRP of a-la-carte channels and bouquets by 15th January 2020. Similarly, DPOs may publish revised offerings on their website by 30th January.

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