Bombay High Court on Tuesday refused ad-interim relief in a plea filed by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, a unified representative body of television broadcasters in India which challenged the amendments made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to New Tariff Order notified in January.
Division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice RI Chagla directed TRAI to submit a reply to the plea within a week and set January 22 as the next date of hearing.
A battery of seniors are appearing in the matter, Senior Advocates DJ Khambatta, Ravi Kadam, Aspi Chinoy and Janak Dwarkadas is appearing on behalf of the broadcasters and Venkatesh Dhond for TRAI.
All leading broadcasters like Sony Pictures, Star India owned by Walt Disney, ZEE Entertainment, TV18 and Producers Guild of India are amongst the petitioners challenging TRAI's amendments and the interconnection regulation as well.
As per TRAI, the new amendments were brought in to protect the interest of consumers. The price of pay channels has been capped at Rs 12 (from Rs 19) and discounting on bouquet of channels (which was earlier as high as 80 per cent) has been capped at 33 per cent, which means that the consumer would no longer be obliged to buy bouquets created by the broadcasters.
Also, unlike earlier, when consumers had access to 100 channels, TRAI has mandated that consumers be offered 200 Free To Air (FTA) channels at a base price of Rs. 153.
Broadcasters are required to publish revised MRP of channels and bouquets on their website by January 15 (tomorrow), whereas operators have to comply with the directions by January 30, 2020. The revised prices will be effective from March 1.
The plea states-
"In the event that the Impugned Provisions [new tariff order] are not stayed/Respondent is not restrained from giving effect to the Impugned Provisions, the Petitioner No.1's [IBF] members shall be forced to upload their amended Reference Interconnect Offers (RIO) on their respective website and new contracts would come into effect creating third party rights with over 100,000 entities, the rollback whereof would be impossible"
Petitioners have argued that the telecom regulator's decision to bring in amendments to the NTO will adversely impact the sector's growth.