TV channel pricing: Supreme Court refuses to stay Bombay High Court order upholding Trai’s new tariff order
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the Bombay High Court order of June 30 that upheld Trai’s new tariff order (NTO) which imposed individual pricing for TV channels and also capped their prices.
Under NTO 2.0, Trai reduced the MRP cap for individual channels, which can be part of any package, to Rs 12 from Rs 19 per month, which the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) opposes. The ordinance also sets the conditions for the formation of channel packages, such as price caps for channel packages.
A bench made up of judges UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhatt assured the association of television producers and broadcasters that they would hear the case on November 30 and attempt to conclude the hearing on the same day.
Appearing for the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation, lead attorney Mukul Rohatgi argued that in addition to the 2020 regulation which set the maximum price per channel at Rs 12, the broadcasters body is also challenging the earlier regulation of 2017 in which the maximum price was set at Rs 19. He said Trai’s action was arbitrary and was not supported by any consumer idea, saying the order would reduce the TV channels provided in a bundle.
Judge Bhatt also said unpaid channel dues should not lead to an adjusted gross income scenario, to which the telecommunications ministry was a party. However, the government lawyer said the two scenarios are not comparable.
IBF, a unified representative body of TV broadcasters in India, said the HC ordinance violates broadcasters’ basic rights, as the right to set prices for TV channels cannot be regulated by the authorities. The petitioners in this case include companies such as Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Star India, Disney India, Asianet, TV18 Broadcast and Sony Pictures Networks India, as well as organizations such as the Film and Television Producers Guild of India and Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation .
According to the appeals, HC’s judgment overturned a clause in Tariff Order 2020, the second “twin condition”, on the grounds that it was arbitrary and violated transparency requirements under section 11 (4) of the Trai law. “The fundamental error of seeing the public interest as a valid consideration to regulate speech and expression has led the HC to maintain Trai’s power to regulate the prices and terms of supply of television channels, this which is certainly a right guaranteed and protected by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, ”the appeal said.