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Broadcasters withdraw petition filed in SC against NTO 2.0

The Indian Broadcasting and Digital Federation (IBDF) and its members have withdrawn their petition filed in the Supreme Court against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India regarding the New Tariff Order 2.0. According to a senior IBDF official, broadcasters are withdrawing the dispute after the regulator promised to float a consultation paper for broadcasters to put forth their grievances on the issue.

This comes after the apex court refused to stay the implementation of NTO 2.0 in line with the broadcasters’ request, as they wanted the courts to hear the matter before the implementation process began.Broadcasters had appealed to the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court’s decision to uphold the validity of the order, arguing that the Bombay High Court order had incorrectly read into Article 19(2) by applying an additional requirement of public interest when it comes to interpreting a broadcaster’s right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).

As of now, the deadline for implementation of NTO 2.0 has been extended to June 1, 2022. With this, broadcasters have been given time till February 28, to submit information regarding changes in the MRP per month for their channels, the MRP of the bouquet of channels and composition of their bouquets. They also need to publish the details on their website by February 28

Broadcasters had previously submitted Reference Interconnect Offers (which have information about channel pricing) in October 2021. However, they removed their top channels from the bouquet after TRAI’s NTO 2.0 directive to reduce channel pricing in bouquet from Rs 19 to Rs 12. The protests by cable operators on the consumer impact of this move prompted TRAI to extend the implementation date and ask the broadcasters to file new RIOs. TRAI warned the broadcasters to refrain from “arbitrary channel pricing”.

According to market watchers, TRAI is talking to broadcasters behind the scenes to resolve the issue . Another source close to IBDF told BusinessLine, “The ball is now in TRAI’s court, TRAI’s precondition for floating the consultation paper was for broadcasters to remove their petition from the Supreme Court. Broadcasters have bitten the bullet and taken a leap of faith, now TRAI needs to officially start the consultation process.” The Hindu BusinessLine

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