Even with television broadcasters in India up in arms with the latest TRAI-implemented tariff regime, the Bombay HC has refused to grant interim relief.
The new tariff order by TRAI put a price ceiling at Rs 130, which means it is the minimum price that will have to be paid by customers for 200 channels. Now, this is against the previous regulation in which only the free-to air channels were to be included in the Rs 130 package. TRAI has made changes in the tariffs applicable to individual channels too.
The Indian Broadcasting Foundation approached the Bombay High Court opposing TRAI for these changes and asking the court to direct TRAI to retract the amendments to the tariffs.
The orders by TRAI were issued in December 2019 and the channels have been advised to reflect the new tariffs by January 15.
With Bombay HC not granting interim relief, broadcasters such as Zee Entertainment, Star India and Sony may now have to publish new tariffs for channels by Tuesday.
The ground level cable operators have been given time till January 30 to make the new tariff public so that the customers can make choices.
The plea taken by the Indian Broadcasters Foundation at the Bombay High Court is that the sector will become unviable if the new tariffs are implemented and that it will impact the growth of their businesses.
TRAI has not touched the minimum fee which is called the Network Capacity Fee or NCF, of Rs 130. The operative part may be the increase in the number of channels to 200. The operators may have to include pay channels in the package. This will mean a lower revenue for the channels and their broadcasters.
Apart from refusing to grant interim relief, the Division Bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and RI Chagla directed TRAI to file its response in a week. The Bombay HC will hear the matter again on January 22.