Tata Sky, Zee Turner case: TDSAT asks for Trais’s position on DTH operations

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) today asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to look into the issue of transponder capacity as raised by direct-to-home (DTH) service provider Tata Sky as a limiting factor.

The Tdsat has also asked Trai whether it would like to regulate prices for channels on DTH operations, as it has done in the case of cable operations in the Cas regime, or let market forces operate as they are now, in terms of broadcasters fixing their own prices.

Trai had been asked to state the time they would need to do so, and their counsel wanted two weeks. Trai has been asked to file an affidavit by 19 January.

Tdsat was hearing the ongoing case between Tata Sky and Zee-Turner, regarding the fixing of channel offered by the latter, which Tata Sky found too high. Tata Sky had filed the case earlier also because according to it, Zee-Turner had not acceded to its request to stream signals over the issue of prices, violating Trai regulation.

The matter came to head when Tata Sky alleged that Zee-Turner was indulging in cartelisation, since it was not only a MSO, but also part of a broadcaster on behalf of Turner.

While the Tata Sky counsel was addressing the court, the Zee counsel intervened to say that though Tata Sky was challenging Zee's contentions on the ground that it was an arm of broadcaster Turner, the same was the case with Tata Sky, which had an agreement with Star television, and could simply not seek to plead as just a DTH operator.

Tata Sky had said during the arguments that it had to operate through various transponders, and the total capacity of these was limited; but Zee rebutted that over and above the channels Zee was giving Tata Sky, the latter was still able to beam local channels, so the issue of a limited capacity of transponders did not hold good.

This is when the court decided to rise and discuss the issue between the brother judges.

On resumption of hearing, the court, instead of allowing the parties to continue arguments, directly addressed the Trai counsel and said that there are "larger issues that are worrying us", and asked Trai to come out with their position.

While the counsel for Tata Sky referred to an earlier judgement of the same court (July 14, 2006), the court said certain issues may have been overlooked and hence, it was only Trai that would first need to state its position.

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