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Ad cap petitions adjourned till 11 November

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NEW DELHI: The case challenging the adcap regulations sought to be implemented on television channels was today adjourned to 11 November by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.

TDSAT Chairman Justice Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh also rejected the interventions filed by Zee, Star and Viacom18, with the Tribunal asking them to file separate applications.

The News Broadcasters Association had moved TDSAT challenging the constitutional validity of the regulations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India enforcing the ad cap.

Several other broadcasters – mostly general entertainment channels – had later moved TDSAT, but the Tribunal had in 30 August accepted the argument by NBA that the cases of the general entertainment channels could not be clubbed with the petition of NBA.

 The news channels are seeking relief from the 10+2 ad cap regulation prescribed by TRAI.

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi on behalf of the NBA sought time as the pleadings were not ready.

Some regional channels from Kerala also wanted to intervene as petitioners, but TDSAT said their matter would be heard after the main hearing.

Channels that sought to move to the court today included 9X, B4U, TV Vision and Pioneer Channel Factory of Mumbai, Sun TV Network of Chennai, E24 Glamour, Polimer Media, Reliance Big Network, Eenadu TV, Sarthak Entertainment and Raj TV.

Later, some general entertainment channels including music channels had also approached TDSAT in various petitions and the Tribunal had decided to hear these matters after the NBA matter.

Counsel for TRAI said 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 for all.

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.

Counsel for the NBA A J Bhambani had said on 30 August that a delegation of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation 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.

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