TRAI seeks NTO 2.0 compliance report from broadcasters as SC refuses relief to IBDF

The regulator has granted 10 days to the broadcasters to submit the report

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Oct 12, 2021 7:10 PM  | 4 min read

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued letters to TV broadcasters seeking compliance details regarding the implementation of New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0. The regulator has granted 10 days time to the broadcasters to provide the compliance report. The Supreme Court recently rejected the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation's (IBDF) request for an interim relief.

The letter states that NTO 2.0, barring the second twin condition, has been upheld by the Bombay High Court. It asks the non-compliant broadcasters to comply with the new regulation and provide a compliance report in 10 days.

TRAI notified NTO 1.0 on March 3, 2017 and said the regulatory framework was amended on January 1, 2020. The amended regulatory framework also called NTO 2.0 was challenged by leading broadcasters, including Star India, ZEEL, Sony Pictures, and Viacom18, before the Bombay High Court.

“The Hon'ble High Court of Judicature at Bombay, vide its Judgement dated 30th June 2021 passed in the Writ Petition No 680 of 2020 [(WP (L) No 116 of 2020)], titled as the 'Film and Television Producer's Guild of India Ltd & Another vs The Union of India & Another' and other connected matters therewith, has upheld the validity of New Regulatory Framework 2020 except for the condition of average test provided in the third proviso to sub-clause (3) of clause 3 of the Tariff Amendment Order 2020,” the TRAI letter reads.

“Accordingly, all such broadcasters who have not complied so far, are required to comply with all provisions of New Regulatory Framework 2020 as upheld by Hon'ble Court of Bombay and report compliance to the Authority within 10 days of issue of this letter.”

The TRAI will decide its next move once the broadcasters send their responses. The regulator is most likely to issue Show Cause Notices (SCN) to broadcasters, since most of them are non-compliant with NTO 2.0. “Broadcasters need to tell us whether they are law-abiding service providers or not. We will wait for their response before deciding on the next course of action. We will issue show cause notices to broadcasters who are not in compliance with the amended framework, which has been upheld by the Bombay High Court,” a TRAI official said on condition of anonymity.

According to a source in the TV distribution industry, the broadcasters will soon come out with new MRP and bouquet rates to comply with NTO 2.0. “Distribution platforms have done their part of the compliance, it's the turn of the broadcasters to declare MRP and bouquet rates so that NTO 2.0 can be implemented on the ground. With SC refusing any interim relief, the broadcasters are expected to come out with new pricing soon,” the source said.

While challenging the NTO 2.0 legally, the broadcasters have been working behind the scenes on the new pricing strategy for NTO 2.0. “We have worked out the new pricing, but the roll-out will depend on the legal team's advice,” a top broadcasting official said.

It is pertinent to note that the NTO 2.0 matter is currently pending in the Supreme Court. During the hearing on October 1, the apex court had refused to grant interim relief to broadcasters and had put up the matter for final hearing on November 30.

“The request for interim relief is rejected at this stage, as this batch of matters is directed to be listed before the appropriate Court for final disposal on 30.11.2021,” the two member bench of Justices Uday Lalit and Ravindra Bhat had said in an order dated October 1.

In order to facilitate the disposal, we request the learned counsel appearing for all the parties to file their written submissions [not exceeding three pages] on or before 12.11.2021, the order stated further.

The bench also made clear that Convenience Compilations filed by Ms. Liz Mathew, learned Advocate for Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundations & Others will be taken as base volumes. “Copies of these Convenience Compilations shall be shared digitally with all the learned counsel, who may make cross-references to the particular pages from these Convenience Compilations in their written submissions,” the order reads.

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