News Broadcasters case on adcap to be heard by TDSAT on 31 October

NEW DELHI: The petition by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) challenging the constitutional validity of the regulations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) enforcing the ad cap is to come up for hearing on 31 October.


The fresh date was fixed on a mention by counsel A J Bhambani for the NBA to the effect that the cases relating to general entertainment channels could not be clubbed with news broadcasters who had challenged the authority of TRAI to take decisions in the matter.


Earlier on 30 August, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had listed the matter for 11 November.


However, when some general entertainment channels including music channels approached TDSAT in various petitions, the Tribunal decided to club all the cases together and hear them on 21 October after counsel for TRAI told TDSAT during a hearing earlier this month that an anomalous situation had been created with some channels having accepted the adcap with effect from 1 October. It was therefore requested that the matter be resolved once and for all.


It remains to be seen whether general entertainment channels will seek a change in date in view of the new date for the NBA case. However, counsel for some of the GECs told that TDSAT was expected to hear all matters together on 31 October.


Meanwhile, TRAI had been forbidden on 30 August from taking any 'coercive action' against news channels who are not abiding by the agreement relating to advertisement time on news channels.


The Tribunal also said that while the news channels will maintain weekly records of the advertising time per hour on a weekly basis, they will not be required to submit this to the regulator as being done at present and will only submit these to TDSAT at the hearing of the case.


Bhambani had said on 30 August that a delegation of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had submitted a formula to the regulator but that did not preclude the broadcasters from challenging the validity of the Regulations. He also said that this was only a compromise reached between the broadcasters and the regulator and could not form the basis of penal action since it was not a regulation or legal provision. He had added that there were many members who were common to both the IBF and the NBA, and therefore the IBF had submitted a 'proposal' on 29 May this year, which the TRAI accepted. But this could not be construed as a regulation.


Even otherwise, he argued that TRAI was only empowered by its own Act to make 'recommendations' on issues like advertisements and not bring about or enforce regulations and resort to prosecution.


When the law was invoked by the Authority in May 2012, it was disputed by television broadcasters which had also challenged the jurisdiction of TRAI in this regard before the Tribunal.

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