Tamil Nadu

TV channel pricing referred to third judge

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CJ, judge differ on TRAI rules

Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar of the Madras High Court on Friday differed on the issue of upholding certain provisions of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations of 2017 and Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order of 2017 issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

While Mr. Justice Sundar struck down the provisions under challenge, the Chief Justice delivered a dissenting judgment, wherein she held that the TRAI was well within its right to impose restrictions on the pricing of bouquets of television channels in the interest of the end users who may not be duped or misled by inclusion of free channels and less popular channels in bouquets to increase the number of channels on offer.

Fiat to registry

Since the Chief Justice had differed with her co-judge in the first Division Bench, she asked the High Court Registry to place the writ petitions filed by Star India and Vijay Television, challenging the regulations as well as tariff order issued by the TRAI, before the next available judge in the court in the order of seniority (which happens to be Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh) for nomination of the third judge before whom the case could be listed for hearing.

Mix not allowed

The case gains significance since what had been challenged were the regulations and tariff order brought in by the TRAI to streamline the broadcasting industry by stating that television channels, when given in bouquets, should not be a mix of pay channels and free to air channels. The TRAI had held that when channels were offered in a bouquet, one bouquet should either contain pay channels only or free to air channels only.

One more restriction was when channels were offered in a bouquet, the high definition and standard definition formats of the same channel should not be in the same bouquet.

Cap on MRP

The regulations as well as the tariff order mandate that a bouquet of pay channels should not contain any channel whose maximum retail price (MRP) was more than ₹19. They stated that the MRP of a bouquet should not be more than 85% of the sum of a-la-carte MRP of pay channels constituting the bouquet.

There was a clause which stated that discounts on MRP of a bouquet should not exceed 15% and this was the only clause which the Chief Justice also felt was arbitrary and unfair.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 5:10:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tv-channel-pricing-referred-to-third-judge/article22912887.ece

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