The blackout in nearly 45 million homes across the country will persist for at least one more day as the Kerala High Court on Monday offered no relief to the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) in its plea asking for signals to be restored by a few broadcasters.
Justice Shaji P Chaly in whose court the matter is being heard has posted the issue for Tuesday, as the two sides have yet to conclude their arguments. The AIDCF is being represented by Senior Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, while the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF) is being represented by Former Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohtagi. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which has been made a party to the matter, has appointed Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi to represent it in court.
Television channels from the Star, Sony and Zee networks have been off air since Saturday after disconnection notices were sent last week by the above broadcasters to members of the AIDCF including top cable companies such as Hathway, Den, GTPL, NXTDigital and Asianet Digital Network.
The blackout came in the wake of a clash between cable operators and broadcasters over channel pricing following implementation of the new tariff order (NTO) 3.0 from February 1. While broadcasters say that the hike in channel prices is to the extent of 5-15 per cent only, cable operators say that the price hike could go up to 60 per cent, depending on the channel and network, which could hurt the domestic cable & satellite market, considered price-sensitive.
It may be recalled that the TRAI, which is the regulator for both the telecom and broadcast sectors, had amended the NTO 2.0 (now called NTO 3.0) in November 2022, restoring the price cap for a television channel, which is part of a bouquet, to Rs 19 from Rs 12 earlier.
AIDCF has contended in court that the TRAI had failed to regulate the pricing of television channels or cap their prices. Instead, it had increased the pricing of television channels that could be included in a bouquet against consumer interest.