Calcutta HC Vacates Stay On New TRAI Tariff Regime

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Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court, modifying its earlier stay order, on Thursday allowed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to bring into operation its new tariff regime and regulations for broadcast and cable sector from February 1.

The TRAI had earlier planned implementation of the new regime from January 1, but later extended it by a month.

Justice Arindam Sinha directed Local Cable Operators (LCOs) to enter into a revenue sharing agreement with Multi System Operators (MSOs) by February 8 either through negotiations or under an arrangement formulated by the TRAI.

Justice Sinha had on January 29 stayed implementation of the new tariff order and regulatory regime.

The LCOs, who provide cable television connections to subscribers, had moved the high court claiming that the tariff order heavily favoured the MSOs — the distributors of TV channels, and would render their businesses financially unsustainable.

Lawyers representing four of the 28 MSOs operating in West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands submitted that they are not opposed to implementation of the regulations.

Additional Solicitor General Kaushik Chanda, representing TRAI, submitted that there is no threat to livelihood of LCOs, as claimed by them. He said there is a minimum revenue guarantee provided by the regulator, with Rs 130 per subscriber for a bouquet of 100 channels to be shared between MSOs and LCOs.

Chanda said over and above this, there is additional revenue to be earned and shared between MSOs and LCOs for distribution at 20 per cent of the amount to be charged by broadcasters for pay channels on a la carte basis or in bouquet.

The court directed the TRAI to file an affidavit before it within four weeks, explaining its position on submissions made by the petitioners and that all stakeholders, including LCOs, were heard before the regulations were passed. Justice Sinha said the matter will be heard again on March 6.