TRAI deadline on tariff order ends, but broadcasters waiting for Sept 5 SC hearing

TRAI deadline ended on August 31. Sources in the industry say broadcasters are likely to request TRAI to extend it.

On July 3, 2018, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) gave a 60-day deadline to broadcasters for publication of Reference Interconnect Offer, declaration of MRP and nature of channels, in connection with its tariff order. The deadline came to an end on August 31, 2018, but broadcasters are yet to comply with the order and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017.

There was a hearing on the issue on August 27, but the Supreme Court deferred it to September 5, 2018.

Talking about the implementation of the order, Sudhanshu Vats, Managing Director, Viacom18, told exchange4media, that it is a “good thing” but "they have to find out the right ways to operationalise it."

“We are working on our response to the tariff order. It's premature to comment on it specifically. It is still sub-judice in some way because there is another hearing in SC on September 5 and then in Delhi High Court as well. So, these two things are happening simultaneously. Like other players in the industry, you will see our response depending on how SC hearing goes.”

“At a certain conceptual level, it's a good thing to do, but we have to find out the right ways to operationalise it. You can’t disagree on the principle of giving more choice to the consumers and letting them pick and choose. It's a right thing to do,” he added.

On the same lines, the legal head of a leading broadcaster said that most players in the industry are waiting for the September 5 hearing.

"Everyone is waiting for September 5 (for the Supreme Court’s hearing). Some broadcasters have complied with the tariff order, but with a disclaimer stating ‘subject to the outcome of this case’,” the legal head said.

After the apex court deferred the hearing to September 5, ZEEL announced that it was "planning multiple bouquets in each language.” But ZEEL’s announcement was mostly about ‘plans’ that it is ‘likely’ to implement.

Sources in the industry told exchange4media that “it is very likely that broadcasters will request the TRAI to extend the deadline.” Some sources also hinted that one of the petitioners has already written to the TRAI for this.

The Madras High Court on May 23, 2018 upheld the validity of the tariff order and the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017, in general. Post this order, TRAI on July 3, 2018 published a press note bringing the tariff order, as upheld by the Madras High Court, into effect with separate timelines for different requirements.

However, in the press note, TRAI did not mention the steps it would take if the stakeholders failed to meet the deadline. exchange4media spoke to various senior players in the broadcasting industry and some legal heads of channels and almost all of them said that TRAI has left it open ended by not mentioning the action it would take if the deadline was not met.

exchange4media repeatedly tried to speak to TRAI over the issue but did not get a response till the filing of the article. For more updates, be socially connected with us on
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