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 indiantelevision.com
that TDSAT was expected to hear all matters together on 31
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.