Bombay High Court Adjourned IBF & TRAI Case To 26 February 2020

Bombay High Court Adjourned IBF & TRAI Case To 26 February 2020

Bombay High Court has adjourned the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) vs Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) matter to 26 February 2020.

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In the previous hearing on 30th January, the bench of Justice RI Chagla and SC Dharmadhikari had admitted the petitions filed by IBF and other broadcasters after hearing both sides and finding that there are arguable questions raised.

The bench had posted the matter for hearing on 12th February since the parties had agreed that even for interim relief detailed arguments would have to be canvassed by both sides. The understanding was that the court would proceed to hear the petitions finally.

TRAI

Bombay High Court had also stated that, if for some reason, the petitions could not be disposed off before 1st March, the petitioners will be at liberty to apply for interim relief.

As the constitutional validity of some provisions of the parent Act and the Rules framed thereunder, is challenged, the court had asked the registry to cause a notice to be issued to the learned Attorney General of India.

The IBF along with Star India, ZEEL, TV18, Viacom18, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), Zoom Entertainment and Film & Television Producers Guild of India had challenged the TRAI’s new amendments stating that they infringe on their fundamental rights.

New Tariff Regime

The broadcasters had sought a stay on the amended tariff order and regulations contending that the TRAI sought to overhaul the entire method and manner in which broadcasters conduct their business. They also argued that the broadcast industry was just adapting to the MRP regime which came into force in February 2019.

Indian Broadcasting Foundation and other petitioners have also contended that the broadcasters, on an average, lost 50% of the subscribers to whom their channels were reaching compared to the previous regime. This has impacted the ad as well as the subscription revenue of the broadcasters.

It has also been averred that through the recent amendments the TRAI has taken away the independence of the broadcasters to offer channels in a commercially viable manner through the bouquet. The MRP of channels that can be offered through bouquet has also been reduced to Rs 12 from Rs 19 which is lower than the rate at which broadcasters offered their content in 2016.

The broadcasters also stated that the Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) are being given further independence even as their freedom is being taken away. It has also been argued that the changes are bereft of any empirical data or evidence.

Among the key amendments that the broadcasters have challenged

1) arbitrary reduction of MRP cap to Rs 12 from Rs 19

2) Imposition of twin conditions on bouquet pricing

3) restricting incentives only to a la carte. The amended tariff order and regulations come into force from 1st March, 2020.

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