The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has filed an application with the Bombay High Court petitioning an order be proclaimed at the earliest for its New Tariff Order 2.0. case. The Bombay HC has earlier reserved its order on the case after hearing the petitioners – the TV and Films Producers Guild of India, IBF and other TV channels.
It may be recalled that in the final quarter of 2020, the court had ordered TRAI to not take any coercive action against TV channels for not implementing the tariff order issued by the regulator in January 2020. TRAI had requested that only the petitioning channels be exempted from implementing the NTO 2.0, a stand the court then discounted, stretching the protection to all TV channels.
At the time of issuing the NTO 2.0 in January, TRAI had stated “The amendments address the teething issues faced by the consumers while balancing the interests of broadcasters as-well-as the DPOs to create a level playing field… address certain anomalies in the market, which necessitated review for achieving the orderly growth of the sector”.
As per TRAI, the New Tariff Order 2.0helps consumers to choose channels of their choice by ensuring that prices of a-la-carte channels are not deceptive, where consumers could choose 200 channels of their choice, excluding mandated Prasar Bharati channels, for Rs. 130 per month.
TRAI has pointed out that relief had been given to multi-TV homes, and FTA, news, and regional broadcasters, TRAI had in a statement issued in January 2020, stated, “It is important to note that the broadcasters continue to have full flexibility to price their channel as the maximum retail price of any channel remains in forbearance.
“NTO 2.0 recommends a linkage between a-la-carte price and bouquet by mandating that sum of the a-la-carte channels in a bouquet will not be more than 1.5 times that of bouquet price.
“It has also prescribed condition that MRP (maximum retail price) of a-la-carte channel should not be more than Rs. 12 per month to be part of the bouquet, which was Rs. 19 earlier”.
The applicants have contested NTO 2.0 on various grounds including that capping of channel pricing by TRAI doesn’t take into account the real cost of content acquisition that is very high and that world over bundling is allowed with various studies never suggesting that bouquets were unfriendly to consumers.
It is not clear as to when the Bombay HC will take up the application filed by TRAI to pronounce an order relating to the NTO 2.0 case.