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Adcap case put off to 29 March; Discovery moves for intervention, Home Cable seeks early hearing

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court today adjourned the hearing of the adcap (advertising cap) challenge to 29 March, when it will also take up the application by Discovery Communications to intervene in the matter.

While the matter was listed for today, it was put off to another date in view of pending cases before the court.

In the last hearing on 27 November, the Court chaired by Chief Justice G Rohini said the matter had been pending for some time and therefore it will hear and conclude the case in the next hearing.

On that day, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had informed the Court that it was in talks with the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and other stakeholders on the issue of the advertising cap of 12 minutes per hour. This was the first time that the Ministry had put in an appearance in the petition filed by the NBA and others against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and others.

On an oral plea by intervenor Home Cable Network Pvt Ltd counsel Vivek Sarin for early hearing, the Court directed him to file a written application with the relevant contentions for early hearing, saying that the court would consider it.

Even as Discovery Communications sought to press its plea for being impleaded as an intervenor, the Court said this would also be considered at the next hearing.

Home Cable Network was permitted to intervene on 5 January and the Court had agreed to consider contentions on whether pay channels should be permitted to carry commercials in view of subscription fee charged by them. Sarin had told the court that the petitioners had not disclosed that broadcasters had given their consent to observe the 10+2 ad cap rule under the Cable Television Network Regulation Rules 1994 and the Act that followed a year later and also under the Uplink and Downlink Guidelines.

He also said pay TV broadcasters should not be allowed to take ads as they charged subscription fee.

The case, filed by 9X Media, NBA and others against TRAI and the Union Government, has so far been adjourned from time to time on the plea that the government and the broadcasters are in talks on this issue.

Indiantelevision.com has learnt that this comes in the wake of a statement made by Minister Arun Jaitley in January last year that there should be no ad cap in the print or electronic media. However, no instructions have been issued in this regard by the Minister so far.

The Court has already directed that the order that TRAI will not take any action against any channel pending the petition will continue. In an earlier hearing, the Court had, at the regulator's instance, directed that all channels keep a record of the advertisements run by them.

The NBA had challenged the ad cap rule, contending that TRAI does not have jurisdiction to regulate commercial airtime on television channels.

Apart from the NBA, the petitions have been filed by Sarthak Entertainment, Pioneer Channel Factory, E24 Glamoru, Sun TV Network, TV Vision, B4U Broadband, 9X Media, Kalaignar, Celebrities Management, Eanadu Television and Raj Television.

Meanwhile, according to information available with this website, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Delhi is already hearing a case on this issue against 15 broadcasters. It is further learnt that officials of these channels have obtained bail and the matter is pending before the Magistrate.

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