HC declines to stay implementation of TRAI regulations for TV services

The Madras High Court Friday declined to stay implementation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s March, 2017 regulations and tariff order relating to fixation of charges for free and pay channels.

Rejecting the interim prayer plea in a petition filed by a cable TV association, Justice S Vaidyanathan issued notice to the TRAI and posted the matter to January 3 for further hearing.

The Chennai Metro Cable TV (CAS) Operators Association, in its petition, sought to quash two notifications on the new regulations issued through media releases on November 19 and December 18 fixing December 29 as the deadline for implementing the tariff order.

It also sought an interim stay on implementation of the regulations vide the impugned press releases.

The TRAI counsel submitted that the matter was already raised before the Supreme Court and the authority itself has now extended the deadline for implementation to January 31 to enable the service providers to ensure smooth transition of subscribers from old to new regulatory frame work.

The petitioner association submitted that objections were raised by a social activist after the first communication was issued on November 19.

However, the TRAI without considering the objections passed the second impugned release, issued on December 18 specifying the deadline, it said.

Contending that proposed system was not consumer friendly, the petition claimed that the new arrangement under which each local cable operator (LCO) will have to ask consumer to choose the channel and collect the required fees was “unworkable”.

Presently, consumers can view all channels at a fixed price. But the new system compels the consumers to see only certain channels and this would affect their fundamental right and curtail rights to see all channels, it claimed.

Besides, it would lead to collapse of livelihood of the LCOs and result in chaos, the petition submitted.

The TRAI, in March, 2017, had notified the new regulatory framework for Broadcasting and Cable services and re-notified it on July 3, 2018, prescribing the implementation schedule.

The Supreme Court had on October 30 dismissed a plea challenging the new regulation.

Taking note of speculation that there may be a blackout of subscribed channels when the new regulations come into force, the TRAI on Wednesday said it has advised broadcasters and LCOs to ensure that “any channel that a consumer is watching today is not discontinued on December 29.”

The Lok Sabha was also told on Thursday rpt Thursday that the new regulatory framework for broadcasting and cable services that comes into force this week will provide “freedom of choice” and give consumers “direct control” on their monthly bill for television services.

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