On 23rd May 2018, the bench of Justice MM Sundresh had in an order upheld chief justice Indira Banerjee’s order allowing the TRAI’s tariff order and the interconnection regulation for the TV broadcasting sector.
This time through its SLP, Star India once ag ain questioned regulator’s power to frame the tariff order contending that the exploitation of intellectual property (IP) rights are covered under Copyright Act.
Supreme Court listed the matter for 28 August 2018, though the apex court has not stayed the Madras HC Judgement on the TRAI's Interconnect Regulation and Tariff order.
Also, on 18 July 2018, the Delhi High Court adjourned Tata Sky and Airtel's writ petitions to 3 August 2018. They have also challenged the regulations.
ALCOA India, an association of Cable Operators which is recognized by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), recently wrote a letter to TRAI seeking clarification on its Tariff Order and Interconnection Regulation.
ALCOA said in its letter:
(a) The regulations have the following definition for the Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) service covered under the aforesaid regulations: - (1) Internet protocol television operator or IPTV operator means a person permitted by the Central Government to provide IPTV service. (2) Internet protocol television service or IPTV service means delivery of multi-channel television programmes in addressable mode by using Internet Protocol over a closed network of one or more service providers.
(b) Most of the OTT (Over-the-Top) IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) operators such as HotStar, Sony Liv, ZEE5 and Voot, etc. have no permission granted by the Central Government to provide IPTV or OTT IPTV services and they are also not registered as DPO by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
c) These unregistered, non-permitted OTT IPTV distribution platforms are being operated by the broadcasters themselves for the past few years, and are providing the same content/channels for which an MRP and nature of Channel has to be declared by Broadcasters within 60 days.
(d) Maximum retail price or MRP for the purpose of this Order means the maximum price, excluding taxes, payable by a subscriber, for a-la-carte pay channel or bouquet of pay channels, as the case may be.
(e) As per DoT’s definition, an IPTV service or technology is the new convergence service or technology of the telecommunications and broadcasting through QoS controlled Broadband Convergence IP Network including wire and wireless for the managed, controlled and secured delivery of a considerable number of multimedia contents such as Video, Audio , data and applications processed by platform to a customer via Television, PDA Cellular, and Mobile TV terminal with STB module or similar device.
The ALCOA has sought clarification on this from the TRAI at the earliest in consideration to the essence and spirit behind the implementation of this new regulatory framework that will bring in transparency, enable provisioning of affordable broadcasting and cable TV services for the consumer and at the same time, would lead to an orderly growth of the sector.
SN Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, DEN Networks, commented, "This is definitely a very welcome move and it's leading towards 100 percent digitalisation in a transparent manner. The viewer is going to be beneficiary, so will be all the stakeholders with the value chain. Multiple System Operators (MSO) are going to play a significant role in terms of delivery of the signal through cable operators."
The DTH operator Dish TV, which was the first in the industry to partially and voluntarily roll out the prov isions of the Tariff Order by offering a-la-carte channels to its subscribers at affordable prices, said: “If implemented in letter and spirit, the Tariff Order should be beneficial for the entire industry.”
Dish TV India CMD Jawahar Goel said: “Though a lot of work may have to be done by individual stakeholders initially, the benefits shall accrue by way of a higher ARPU for the industry going forward.”
ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka said, “On the subscription front, TRAI has notified that the new tariff order will come into effect starting January 2019. We have started discussions with our distribution partners for a seamless transition to the new regime. If implemented as envisaged, the regulation would be beneficial for all the stakeholders and could be a catalyst for ARPU growth. Even under the new regime, we will be able to grow our subscription revenue at a healthy pace.”
Now it all depends in the apex Court to decide which way the wind blows.