TRAI Tariff Order matter listed for Wednesday morning

After getting postponed several times, an application by broadcasting companies such as Zee Entertainment Enterprises against the latest TRAI directive to implement the new tariff order has been listed for hearing tomorrow morning.

The application was originally listed before the Bombay High Court for hearing on last Thursday, but there was no hearing on account of rains at Mumbai and the matter was pushed to Friday.

UPDATE: The matter has been kept for Aug 24 for judgment.

Since then, Bombay High Court informed parties that the bench which has heard the matter with sit on 12 August (Wednesday/Tomorrow) to take up the matter.

Since it is the first item in the list of items to be heard, chances of it being heard tomorrow are very high.

The matter has been listed in front of Justices Anuja Prabhudesai and AA Sayed, which is also the bench that has been hearing the matter since February this year.

Tomorrow’s application filed by Zee and other broadcasters are against an order passed by media and telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or TRAI late last month.

In the order issued on July 24, TRAI pointed out that TV channel broadcasting companies have been in non-compliance of tariff rules published by the regulator on January 1.

Under the tariff rules, no channel priced above Rs 12 per month can be sold as part of a package, while nearly all the major broadcasters in India have included channels priced above the 12-rupee threshold in their packages.

It asked these broadcasters to republish their channel prices and packs so that their offerings are brought into conformity with existing laws and regulations.

However, the broadcasters replied to TRAI saying that they have challenged TRAI’s decision in front of the court, and therefore, there was no need to implement the same.

TRAI, however, responded by saying that merely challenging an order in front of the courts does not give anyone the right to bypass the same, and that no court has granted any stay on the execution of the order.

On receiving this reply, the broadcasters filed an application in front of Bombay High Court seeking its intervention to restrict TRAI from taking punitive action against them for not complying with its directions.

The above application will be taken up for hearing by the bench tomorrow.

TRAI, in its order and its response to the broadcasters, had also pointed out that a failure by the broadcasters to comply with the existing rules had led to “chaos” and ad-hocism in the market, with cable and DTH operators refusing to sign or renew channel distribution agreements that were not in compliance with existing rules.

“TRAI is dutybound to promote orderly growth of the sector and cannot allow a regulatory vacuum to prevail and impairing thereby the interests of various other stakeholders including the consumers,” the regulator said.

It is possible that the latest tussle between the regulator, broadcasters and distributors of channels could hasten the resolution of the months-long logjam.

It has been over five months since the bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudesai and AA Sayed finished hearing arguments from all parties and reserved judgment.

In the meanwhile, the TV broadcasting industry has gone into a kind of limbo, with regulatory uncertainty preventing the parties from entering into any new agreement or contract.