SC issues notice to TRAI in NTO 2.0 case

The Apex court was hearing petitions filed by broadcasters against the Bombay HC order

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the petitions filed by broadcasters against the Bombay high court judgment upholding the New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0.

The bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and Justice Aniruddha Bose presided over the hearing. It has also directed TRAI to file its reply before the next date of hearing.

On 30 June, the Bombay HC had upheld the constitutional validity of the NTO 2.0 while striking down one of the twin conditions relating to the average pricing of a channel in a bouquet terming it as ‘arbitrary’. The court had also extended interim relief to the broadcasters for six weeks, and asked the regulatory body not to take any coercive action against them in case of non-compliance.

The judgment was challenged by the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), and several individual broadcasters including Zee, Sony, TV 18, Star India, and Film and Television Guild of India Ltd in the Supreme Court. On 6 August, the apex court asked them to get back to it with slimmer petitions and posted the matter for hearing on 18 August.

Among other things, the New Tariff Order (NTO) 2.0 issued by TRAI in January, 2020 prescribed linkage between a-la-carte price and Bouquet and reduced the price cap on the subscription fees for pay channels. So, TV broadcasters can now include a channel in a pack only if it is priced at Rs 12 or less than that. Earlier, this limit was Rs. 19. According to broadcasters, NTO 2.0 is 'violative of their fundamental right', and could prove detrimental to the overall sectoral growth.

The matter is next listed on 7 September for consideration of stay on NTO 2.0.

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