Trai’s channel pricing: Supreme Court refuses to stay Bombay High Court order

By: |
August 19, 2021 3:30 AM

Seeking response from Trai and others, a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana refused to stay the HC order on a batch of appeals filed by IBF and other broadcasters.

The move in the short run – if 5G auctions are held next year in March – would help Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio in lowering their SUC payment. However, a similar gain may not come through Vodafone Idea's way.The move in the short run – if 5G auctions are held next year in March – would help Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio in lowering their SUC payment. However, a similar gain may not come through Vodafone Idea's way.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the Bombay High Court’s order which upheld Trai’s new tariff order (NTO) which mandated individual pricing for television channels and also capped their prices.

As per NTO 2.0, Trai reduced the cap on the MRP of individual channels, which can form part of any bouquet, to `12 from `19 per month, which the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) is opposing. It also imposed conditions for formation of channel bouquets, like putting a price cap on channel bouquets. The HC had on June 30 upheld the Trai’s decision.

Seeking response from Trai and others, a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana refused to stay the HC order on a batch of appeals filed by IBF and other broadcasters.

However, it said it will decide on granting any relief only after hearing Trai’s response on September 7, the next date of hearing.

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for IBF, argued that the HC order violated fundamental rights of broadcasters as the right to fix charges for television channels can’t be regulated by authorities. He argued that when there is no public interest involved in regulation of prices of cinema tickets, then how can the doctrine be used to cap prices of TV channels. Producers Guild also supported IBF’s arguments and sought stay of the HC order.

Broadcasters also asserted that under Article 19 1G, the citizens are given a right to carry out business in a way, manner and form as deemed fit by the owner. Any restriction which has the effect of destroying the business or making it impossible for the profession to operate is an unreasonable restriction on the right to pursue a profession or trade.

However, the Centre and Trai opposed the appeals, arguing that the HC passed the order which was in the interest of millions of consumers.

IBF, a unified representative body of television broadcasters in India, claimed that the Trai’s action was arbitrary and wasn’t backed by any consumer insight.

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