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Supreme Court dismisses Star India’s petition opposing TRAI tariff order

With this, the apex court has given a green signal for the implementation of tariff order preventing broadcasting companies from mixing free-to-air channels with pay channel in bouquets

Star India has lost the battle against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s tariff order for broadcast sector with the Supreme Court pronouncing its order in the favour of the later. Dismissing the broadcaster’s petition challenging the Madras High Court order which had upheld the TRAI tariff order and interconnection regulation, the apex court has given a green signal for the implementation of tariff order preventing broadcasting companies from mixing free-to-air channels with pay channel in bouquets.

Star India and Vijay Television filed the petition challenging the Madras High Court order allowing the TRAI tariff order and interconnect regulation in the Supreme Court which was accepted on July 20. After hearing the arguments, the court had reserved the judgement in the matter on October 11.

Star has challenged TRAI’s jurisdiction to frame the tariff order contending that the exploitation of intellectual property (IP) rights are covered under Copyright Act. The broadcaster has also challenged the TRAI press release informing about the implementation of the regulatory framework from July 3.

After a split verdict on the matter earlier this year in March, the third judge of Madras High Court  Indira Banerjee had upheld TRAI tariff order in May.

Star India is yet to file its reference interconnect offer (RIO) declaring MRP and bouquet rates. Most of the other pay-TV broadcasters have published their RIOs subject to the outcome of the case.

As per the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017, the broadcasters have to declare the MRP and nature of channels within 60 days; distribution platform operators (DPOs) have to declare network capacity fee and distribution retail price (DRP) within 180 days and reporting by broadcasters within 120 days.

The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 mandates publication of Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) by Broadcasters within 60 days; Publication of Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) by DPOs within 60 days and signing of the interconnection agreements within 150 days.

Under the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017, subscribers have to migrate to the new framework within 180 days, the establishment of customer care centre, website, consumer care channel and publication of manual of practice within 120 days.

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