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TV channels and Trai slug it out in court
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NEW DELHI: Satellite channels and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday slugged it out in the Supreme Court over the tariff that consumers pay to watch programmes on TV through cable, conditional access system (CAS or set-top box) and direct to home (DTH).

TRAI was peeved at a recent order of Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) allowing TV channels to offer bouquets, forcing consumers to watch, and pay for, what they had not bargained for.

The satellite channels said it was wrong on TRAI's part to club all classes of consumers — DTH, CAS and cable — and take a view that all were being made to suffer. Senior advocate K K Venugopal said that 96% of TV viewers got to see the programmes through cable network or CAS and paid very little.

TRAI's counsel Harish Salve told a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam that till TRAI worked out fresh rates, the tariff should be put back to the 2004 level. This invited vociferous protests from the TV channels.

Finding it difficult to pass the right kind of interim order that could be acceptable to both sides, the Bench asked TRAI and the TV channels to sit together and arrive at an agreement on the tariff that should be applicable to consumers till the regulatory body took a fresh look at the mechanism.

It asked them to report back to the court on next Friday, when interim orders would be passed putting in place a temporary tariff structure that would operate till TRAI came out with its recommendations.

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