Kerala HC reserves order in NTO 2.0 matter involving AIDCF, TRAI

Kerala HC reserves order in NTO 2.0 matter involving AIDCF, TRAI

The Kerala High Court has reserved order in the new tariff order (NTO) 2.0 matter between All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The interim relief granted to AIDCF will continue. The AIDCF had moved Kerala High Court on 31st January challenging certain provisions of TRAI’s amended tariff order and interconnection regulation.

The federation has prayed for a stay on clauses relating to placing of channels on Electronic Programme Guide (EPG), carriage fee cap of Rs 4 lakh, target market definition and calculating the discontinuation threshold for a television channel. The AIDCF prayed that these provisions limit their flexibility to do business.

The TRAI had mandated that channel of a language in a genre will be kept together while placing channels on EPG. Such EPG layout is to be mandatorily reported to the TRAI and no change in this can be done without prior approval of the authority.

In order to address the concern of huge carriage fee, the authority had mandated that MSOs, HITS operators, IPTV service providers will not have target market bigger than State or Union Territory as the case may be.

In addition, a cap of Rs 4 lakh per month has been prescribed on carriage fee payable by a broadcaster to a DPO in a month for carrying a channel in the country. The cap for HD channels is Rs 8 lakh per month.

The target market and capping of carriage fee was done to prevent exploitation of regional channels who have a specific target market.

The TRAI had prescribed that the ‘discontinuation threshold’ for a channel will be the number arrived at by multiplying the average active subscriber base of the concerned distributor in its declared target market with the ‘discontinuation multiplier’ for the language of that channel.

The ‘discontinuation multiplier’ for a language shall be 5% of the total percentage of the population speaking that language in the declared target market of the concerned distributor as per the latest Census data.

Meanwhile, the Kerala High Court has adjourned the register of interconnection agreements regulation matter to 9th March. The federation had challenged the TRAI’s register of interconnection agreements regulation in January.

On 9th January, the HC had directed TRAI not to take any coercive action. The AIDCF has argued that the placement, marketing and other agreements between broadcasters and DPOs are outside the TRAI’s purview.

Earlier, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had challenged the regulation in the Delhi High Court. The matter has been adjourned to 14th February 2020.

In September 2019, the TRAI had notified the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Register of Interconnection Agreements and all such other matters Regulations, 2019.

The new regulation mandates that the broadcasters must report details of interconnection agreements with DPOs including commercial details to the authority. This includes the details of all other individual agreements which include marketing, placement, agreements on advertisement slots, and extended credit facility.

It further states that the marketing fee details and for that matter, any kind of fee for a channel, between broadcaster and distributor shall be reported to the authority.