Pune Cable Operators fail to get stay on TRAI tariff rollout

The Bombay High Court refused to stay the 2017 TV channel tariff order by TRAI in a case filed by the Pune Cable Operators’ Association.

The new tariff scheme is scheduled to come into operation from Friday across the country, except in West Bengal.

The Pune Cable Operators’ Association tried to get a stay today by pointing out that the Calcutta High Court had issued a stay on the implementation of the tariff order till Feb 18 after local cable operators had complained that they needed more time.

However, the Bombay High Court refused to issue a similar stay.

Instead, it asked TRAI and the petitioners to submit a copy of the Calcutta High Court order for a hearing next week.

The move will come as big relief to the regulator, as Mumbai and Maharashtra are the country’s biggest media & entertainment markets, and a set-back here would have thrown the whole process of the roll-out into disarray.

Cable operators across the country are unhappy at the new rules as they have taken away the power of forming bouquets and packs from their hands and given it to broadcasters or channel owners.

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The original intention of the 2017 rules was to take away the power of bouquet formation from the hands of the DTH and cable players and give it to the consumers. This was supposed to enable the consumers to create their own packages using only the channels they wanted, lowering cost and increasing choice.

However, an intervention by the Madras High Court — in a petition by Star India — disrupted this transfer of power, but not before it had been taken away from cable operators and DTH.

As such, the power of ‘bouquet formation’ currently rests with the broadcasters or channel owners instead of the consumer, as TRAI had stated in the introduction to the new rules.

As such, the new rules have not only failed to provide consumer choice in deciding which channels they want to watch, but have also increased the effective cost of watching popular channels on cable and DTH by 100%-200% for low-end consumers and by 20%-100% for mid-tier and high-end consumers.

TRAI, for now, seems to be hoping that consumers will amend their viewing habits and shift their consumption to free and cheaper channels, forcing channel owners to reduce the prices of their channels and bouquets.

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