Court orders Star to maintain feed, gives InCable 2 days to clear outstandings

First it was ESPN Star Sports. Today it was the turn of Star India to get drawn into a legal spat with the Hinduja Group's InCable Network in Mumbai. The Bombay High Court today ruled on an application moved by the MSO that the existing consent agreement would remain binding on both parties till its expiry on 30 June 2002.

The HC gave its ruling after InCable moved it to restrain Star India from switching off its feed for the MSO's not having signed on to the new subscription regime that went into effect from 1 January. According to a notice that was served on InCable on 21 January, that was to expire at midnight, Star had the option of switching off its feed to the biggest MSO in Mumbai if it failed to sign on to the new rates of Rs 40 for the network's seven channels. InCable has been paying at the rate of Rs 28.50 for all Star channels.

While the court disallowed Star from switching off, it ordered InCable to pay the broadcaster Rs 16 million within two days for three months in outstanding subscription dues that is still owed to the network for the months of October, November and December 2001.

The court, while ruling that InCable would continue to pay Star at the rates agreed to in their consent agreement, ordered that the balance remaining as the difference with Star's new rate structure would have to be deposited with the court by the 10th of every month. The HC left the issue of the new subscriber regime to be resolved through arbitration.

InCable's case is that there is a consent agreement in place that is binding on both parties till 30 June 2002. Speaking for the MSO, Ashok Mansukhani, executive V-P, corporate services, HTMT, said the agreement that was signed last year stipulates that there is to be a gradual upward revision of connectivity. From a connectivity of 135,000 when the deal was signed in July it was upped to 150,000 from January and will again be raised to 165,000 effective March 2000, Mansukhani said.

Mansukhani pointed out that for the cable industry, rate and connectivity were both seen as a component of price. Since InCable had increased connectivity there was no justification in Star's implementing its new rate regime was what was argued in court, he added.

"A gradual upward revision is what we are asking from pay channels until the addressable era becomes a reality," Mansukhani declares.

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