DD Direct Plus retains Zee channels after Tdsat directive

NEW DELHI: Doordarshan has implemented the directive by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) to let channels of the Zee group, Enter 10 Television and Seven Star Satellite on DD Direct Plus, the country’s only free-to-air direct-to-home television platform.

Arun Kumar Jain, Member (Finance), confirmed to that the TDSAT order had been implemented immediately after it was received earlier this week.
Jain is one of the two members presently responsible for the functioning of the pubcaster pending the interim arrangement to be made by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry following the suspension of CEO BS Lalli. The Court, prior to Lalli’s being placed under suspension, had directed a three-member committee to run the day-to-day affairs of the pubcaster, the third member being Member (Personnel) V Shivakumar.

Zee Turner had submitted before Tdsat that DD Direct Plus had threatened not to carry its channel but had not given the mandatory 21 days time. Prasar Bharati had issued notices threatening to disconnect carriage signals of Zee Smile, Zee Jagran and ETC Music- all Zee Turner channels- from 28 November, 2010.

Senior counsel Maninder Singh appearing for Zee Turner had submitted that Prasar Bharati had threatened to stop transmission of its channels though it has paid Rs 8 million as enhanced annual carriage charges. 
With the clearance not coming for increasing the capacity of DD Direct Plus, Doordarshan had issued disconnection notices to around seven channels to make place for the high definition channels launched to coincide with the Commonwealth Games last month.

Allowing the plea of channels which had approached the tribunal following disconnection of their channels, the Tribunal said the public broadcaster should frame a policy regarding terms and conditions for broadcast of the channels through its DTH platform.

The tribunal noted that Prasar Bharati had neither given 21 days prior notice nor opportunities to the channels to enter into agreement for further broadcasting.

"Till such time an appropriate order is passed, the petitioners shall be allowed to continue to broadcast the channel on payment of usual charges, as is payable by others," said Tdsat bench headed by chairman Justice SB Sinha.

Taking serious note, the Tribunal wanted to know why Prasar Bharati removed only some of the channels of one broadcasting group. "Why only some of the channels were removed from DD Platform has not been explained. It has also not been shown as to why despite the fact that a large number of channels - 36 channels - were being aired on DTH

Platform and a large number of them would have completed their term by January 2011, only eight of them were picked up, three of them belonging to one group."

Tdsat said the core committee of the public broadcaster, which was to look into the continuation of the channels, did not consider the applications of the broadcasters.

"It also does not appear from the records that its request for renewal of the agreement has been placed before the Core Committee," the Tribunal noted.

The pubcaster had submitted that the TRP rating of the broadcasters’ channels were very low and therefore they are not entitled to renewal of their agreement. It also submitted that they had no legal right to obtain renewal of their agreement.

DD sources told that DD Direct Plus could consider taking back these channels as soon as it is able to augment its capacity to 97 channels in the first phase. The augmentation of the capacity DD Direct Plus will cost Rs 554.3 million as part of the 11th Plan scheme. According to the budget approved on 4 August 2010, the augmentation in the first phase will be completed 31 March 2011.

According to I&B Ministry sources, the capacity will increase to 200 by the end of financial year 2011-12.

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