Tdsat hints Zee Turner and Asianet to compromise

NEW DELHI: A three-judge bench at the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat), while advising the parties concerned to try hammer out a solution between them, fixed another date for hearing the case relating to Zee Turner switching off bouquet to Asianet. The latter had earlier filed a complaint with Trai wherein the regulatory authority directed Zee-Turner to restore the signals to Asianet.

The next date of hearing has been fixed for 16 February.

This implies that a status quo is maintained as Asianet's cable TV subscribers in parts of South India will have to do without the Zee Turner bouquet consisting of 17-odd channels including Zee TV, Zee News, HBO and Kairali.

Zee-Turner, a distribution joint venture between Zee Telefilms and Time Warner, had appealed to the Tdsat last month on a Trai directive asking it to restore signals to Asianet in Kerala.

The Zee-Turner bouquet has been off from the Asianet cable network since 16 December 2004 due to alleged non-payment of dues amounting to Rs 30 million. The company has also charged Asianet with unauthorised distribution of signals and under-declaration of subscriber base that has resulted in huge financial losses

Though does not have any official word on it, according to sources in both the companies, a settlement may be hammered out. While, reportedly, Asianet has offered a compromise formula, Zee Turner is looking for extracting more out of the settlement if it happens before the next date of hearing at Tdsat.

A broad deal, being worked upon, envisages Asianet paying Rs. 5 million over the next few days with, may be, another package of equivalent amount being paid up at the time of next hearing. This would give Asianet access to the Zee Turner channels again and also time for further negotiations. However, the management of both the companies has to agree to such a deal involving part payment.

What may be a bone of contention is the premier movie channel HBO. Asianet would like to have the channel too as part of the package at earlier rates, which is not being agreed upon by Zee Turner.

Kerala cable TV households connected through Asianet have not been able to watch a slew of channels, including Zee Cinema, Zee TV, Zee English, Cartoon Network, Pogo, CNBC and ZMZ.

The Rajan Raheja-controlled Asianet Satellite Communications Ltd. is the largest cable network services company in Kerala, and is the leading service provider in the region for cable TV and Internet solutions. Its cable network services operate from over 40 centers spread throughout Kerala and touch over half a million homes and establishments.

With a countrywide network of over 400 dealers, Zee-Turner has a wide distribution structure in the country and its bouquet caters to wide genre of programming. The company boasts of a combined viewership of more than 30 million households with an equal spread throughout the country.

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