MSOs to legally challenge ‘deceitful’ ? la carte offer conditionalities

NEW DELHI: MSOs are in the process of consulting legal steps to challenge the "sabotage" of the 4 October Non-Cas Area Tariff Order by the broadcasters. MSOs told today that they have decided on legal action as the terms and conditions set by the broadcasters have not only undermined the regulation but sought to undermine the regulator itself.

“We feel sad that this has been done with a clear intention to deceive the regulator and the public in general, as the conditions put by the broadcasters will not only sabotage a revolutionary tariff order but is dangerously challenging the authority of Trai,” MSO Alliance president Ashok Mansukhani said.

The Zee-Turner offer saying that the Rate Card is only for reporting and not to be construed as an offer is preposterous, as the 4 October order clearly says that they have to make an offer and not merely report it to Trai, say the MSOs.


“What a mockery of the regulation they have made,” Mansukhani said. He added that MSOA would write to Trai “on the exact manner in which the intent and true purpose of the regulation is sought to be defeated in the tariff notifications put up by the broadcasters.”

There emerged on Monday clear indications that it is going to be another long drawn-out battle spread across TDSAT and possibly the higher courts.

There will be major fireworks at the TDSAT hearing on 15 December, when the ongoing case on the order will come up for hearing, and an impending nasty court battle is now going to take place, MSOs indicated.

Mansukhani said, “The broadcasters have gone too far this time. Instead of following the procedure laid down in the 4 September (2006) regulation, they wished to utilise a trade body Indian Broadcasting Foundation, or its so-called independent agency, to verify the Subscriber Line Reports.”


“This is a clear attempt to arrogate the authority of the Trai to IBF,” he said, adding, “Besides, does IBF have the resources to conduct such a massive survey across 65 million cable homes across the country? I guess you should ask IBF.”

According to the existing regulation, an MSO that wants a change in the subscriber base has to approach the broadcaster, along with evidence of the change, and survey report of other similarly placed MSOs along with changes in the subscriber base of the past three years.

This means that MSOs will do their own surveys on changes in subscriber bases, and if the broadcaster is not satisfied it can approach the TDSAT, but there is no provision of a broadcaster appointing a surveyor, independently or through the IBF.

In fact, IBF as a trade body does not figure in any of the laws, regulations or their implementation, but the broadcasters have sought to bring it in and undermine the authority of Trai, MSO lawyers maintained.

Legal experts have told that every aspect of the offer documents seeks to violate the regulation.

The broadcasters have demanded that MSOs give the names and addresses of all LCOs and even that of every subscriber, as a condition for receiving signals at the ? la carte rates, which violates the law.

This condition is against the 4 September regulation, which makes it mandatory for MSOs only to give monthly statements on the subscriber base, not the names and addresses of subscribers.

It also violates the principle of confidentiality as the broadcasters have also interest in DTH and MSO business, so by asking for the names and addresses of subscribers, which the law does not make it necessary, broadcasters are trying to access the database of MSOs to further their other business interests.

One legal expert said that the offers had to be made without conditions, which are intrinsic to the regulation, but both Sony and Zee have laid down conditions, and they point out to the ESPN-Star Sports offer document that gives rates without any conditions.

Mansukhani said also that it is surprising that despite the fact the some key broadcasters have still not put up their ? la carte and bouquet prices, no action has been taken by Trai under law for flouting the regulation.

“I am dismayed that despite specific request to Trai to publish the consolidated broadcaster rates on the website of Trai, it has left it to the broadcasters themselves to put these up on their websites, as this will make it difficult for smaller cable operators to access the pricing data in a consolidated form," said Mansukhani.

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