After IBF, more broadcasters file petitions against Bombay HC order on NTO 2.0 in SC

Star-Disney India and SPNI have filed petitions challenging Bombay HC order in the New Tariff Order matter on Wednesday. ZEEL & Viacom18  are expected to move the apex court today

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Jul 15, 2021 8:24 AM  | 3 min read

After Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Star, Disney India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) have filed petitions challenging the Bombay High Court order in the New Tariff Order (NTO 2.0) matter on Wednesday. Other broadcasters including ZEEL and Viacom18 are expected to move the apex court on Thursday.

The IBF, Star/Disney India, and SPNI have challenged the Bombay High Court's decision to grant more powers to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to regulate pricing and impose restriction on bouquet discounts if it is necessary in the larger 'public interest'. The HC has done so while relying on the Supreme Court's judgement on airwaves in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) vs Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) matter.

The broadcasters have also argued that the Bombay High Court has snatched away the fundamental rights of the broadcasters by allowing TRAI to impose restrictions in 'public interest'. The broadcasters have also challenged the provisions of amended tariff order (NTO 2.0) like bringing down MRP to Rs 12, imposing twin conditions, and placing restrictions on bouquet discounting.

IBF was the first to move the SC on Tuesday with other broadcasters following suit. The apex court is tentatively expected to take up the matters next week.

The IBF along with The Film and Television Producers Guild of India Star India, ZEEL, Viacom18, and Sony Pictures Networks India among others had challenged the constitutional validity of Section 11 of TRAI Act 1997, NTO 1.0, and NTO 2.0 before the Bombay High Court.

The petitioners (broadcasters) had pleaded that all three should be declared constitutionally invalid. However, all three challenges failed barring the second part of the twin conditions that were incorporated in NTO 2.0.

The bench of Justices AA Sayed and Anuja Prabhudessai held that the second twin condition “is arbitrary being contrary to the mandate of section 11(4) of the TRAI Act of ensuring transparency and violates the Petitioners’ fundamental rights under Articles 14 of the Constitution”.

Summary of TRAI's NTO 2.0 that was notified on 1st January 2020:

  • Reduction of ceiling price of pay channel for inclusion in any bouquet from Rs. 19 to Rs. 12
  • Introduction of twin conditions to ensure that there is a reasonable relationship between the prices of pay channels on a-la-carte basis and the bouquet
  • Consumers will get 200 SD (plus mandatory channels) television channels in basic Network Capacity Fee (NCF) of Rs. 130/- per month
  • For higher number of channels, the maximum NCF has been capped @ Rs.160 per month
  • DPOs cannot charge more than 40% of declared NCF per additional TV for 2nd TV connection onwards in a multi-TV home
  • Flexibility to DPOs to declare different NCFs for different regions/areas within its service area
  • Flexibility for DPOs to offer promotional schemes like discounts on NCF and Distributor Retail Prices (DRP) on long term subscriptions
  • Capping of the carriage fee @ Rs. 4 Lakh per Standard Definition (SD) Channel per month for a DPO

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