TDSAT declines stay as SET, ESPN and ESS move against CAS pricing

MUMBAI: Acting on expected lines, broadcasters have finally taken legal recourse against the Rs 5 tariff that the sector regulator had set as the price for accessing pay channels in a CAS regime.

Three separate petitions filed against the order of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) by Set Discovery Ltd, ESPN Star Sports (ESS) and ESPN Software India came up for hearing this morning before the apeals tribunal.
However, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which heard the case today, issued no directive to stay Trai's order.

A point of note is that of the three petitions that came up for hearing today, two of them were moved commonly by ESS and ESPN Software.

TDSAT has set the matter for further argument and a possible order on 13 November. The pay broadcasters have challenged the two Trai notifications dated 24 August (on carriage fee) and 31 August (channel pricing).

The channels have also challenged the revenue sharing model designed for industry stakeholders by Trai. The sector regulator had specified in the notification that the revenue generated from pay channels leaves the broadcaster with 45 per cent, while the multi system operators (MSOs) stays on with 30 per cent and the cable operators get 25 per cent.

Interestingly, the two major MSOs; Hathway and Hinduja-owned IndusInd Media and Communications have intervened in the appeal in support of Trai's decision on the CAS pricing.

For the record, the 24 August notification had mentioned that the carriage fee is to be retained fully by MSOs and can operate throughout a CAS area without any restriction on area of operation.

Subsequently, SitiCable Networks Ltd (now renamed WWIL) has also filed a petition at the tribunal appealing that the MSO must have a share in the basic tier services fee, which according to Trai notification must be retained fully by local cable operators.

Earlier this year, a division bench of the Delhi High Court had passed an order directing the implementation of CAS with effect from 31 December in the south zones of the three metros; Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.

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