Tdsat directs ESS against switching off channels to Dish TV

MUMBAI: The Tdsat has granted interim relief to Dish TV in its dispute with ESPN Software India directing the sports broadcaster to keep giving signals to the direct-to-home (DTH) operator.

ESPN Software India, a subsidiary of pan-Asian sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS), runs five channels namely ESPN, Star Sports, Star Cricket, ESPN HD and Star Cricket HD.

Dish TV had filed a petition with the broadcast tribunal against the public notices issued by the ESS on 5 and 12 November for disconnection of signals to its subscribers.

The notice was issued on the grounds of non-signing of the agreement, breach of regulations including reporting requirements and non-payment of subscriptions fees.

The Tdsat member P.K. Rastogi ruled that ESS will not give effect to its public notices till further hearing in the matter.

The tribunal also directed Dish TV to allow ESS to conduct audit in terms which the latter should complete in two weeks by providing full co-operation.

It also told Dish TV to produce all the relevant records before the representatives of ESS in conducting the audit including the manner in which it is maintaining ‘India Cricket Pack‘.

"Based on the audit report, both the parties will meet and reconcile their accounts," Rastogi stated in his order.

Dish TV‘s senior counsel Maninder Singh contended that ESS did not issue notice under clause 4.1 of the inter-connect agreement which is necessary to give effect to the public notice, a fact that was not disputed by the broadcaster.

However, Mukul Rohatgi appearing on behalf of ESS contested the argument by saying that it was not necessary to issue notice 4.1 before disconnection.

The tribunal, however, held that a notice under 4.1 is essential in this matter since there was a written agreement in place which expired due to efflux of time.

Tdsat had passed an order on 10 April directing the two parties to reconcile the amount that ESS needs to refund on the basis of SMS reports.

However, Dish TV based on its own record determined that ESS was required to refund Rs 196.8 million till September and started adjusting the same from subscription fee payable to ESS.

The broadcaster contended that unless it was allowed to audit the SMS system of the DTH operator it would be difficult to determine the exact amount to be refunded.

Another bone of contention between the parties is the India Cricket Pack introduced by Dish TV which according to ESS is causing revenue loss since the subscriber numbers cannot be recorded as these packs are available only when India cricket is available on the channel and gets disconnected after the event ends.

To this, Singh said that the pack is available on a monthly basis and not only for days when India was playing cricket as alleged by the respondent.

While stating that it was ready to sign a deal based on RIO, Dish TV said it can‘t share the names of subscriber as the regulation doesn‘t mandate it and is against its commercial interest. It has also agreed to provide audit of its SMS system.

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