Calcutta High Court may lift stay on new TRAI tariff rules

Calcutta High Court will hear at 2 PM today an application by broadcast and telecom regulator TRAI seeking a vacation of the stay imposed on the roll-out of the new tariff system from Feb 1.

The High Court had yesterday imposed a stay on the implementation of the tariff order after cable operators in Kolkata complained that they did not get enough time to prepare for the switch-over to the new system.

They’d also complained that the new system will severely impact their revenue and affect their operations and ability to continue as providers of TV channels. The Calcutta High Court has jurisdiction over West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The TRAI today took up the matter in the Kolkata High Court and said that the court had been misled by the petitioners.

The TRAI also submitted the Supreme Court judgement of October last year, in which the apex court had clearly upheld TRAI’s regulations and supported the regulator’s stand on the need to dismantle the ‘bouquet’ system and introduce choice to the consumer.

TRAI requested that the stay on the implementation of the tariff order be vacated.

The Calcutta High Court agreed to consider hear the regulator at 2 PM today.

In their petitions, cable operators complained that the new tariff model will restrict them to just 9% of the total content costs paid by the consumer and their feed suppliers (MSOs) to 11% of the total content costs paid by the consumer.

The stay on the rollout has the potential to disrupt the smooth implementation of the new tariff regime.

The rollout has already been disrupted by a ruling by the Madras High Court, which has caused an imbalance in the power equation between content producers and the cable and DTH companies that distribute the content.

Cable and DTH companies are unhappy with the current shape of the tariff rules that have denuded them of the power to decide which channels will be watched by the consumers.

However, instead of giving this power to the consumer himself, the Madras High Court’s intervention served to transfer this power to the broadcasters.

As a result, the tariff rules have set the consumer free from the bouquets and packs of cable and DTH players, only to make them subject to the packs and bouquets of the channel owners.

Instead of making cable and DTH services more affordable, the rules as implemented have made them more expensive for most people.