TDSAT & Ad cap: TRAI continues arguments

MUMBAI: Continuing to present its side to the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) put forth its arguments to the bench consisting of Justice Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh.

It started off continuing on yesterday’s argument trail saying that the law does not state that if the laying requirements are not fulfilled then it becomes void. That is, TRAI cannot execute its regulation on channels. That broadcasters are covered by both the Cable TV Networks Act and the TRAI act is a parliamentary mandate and there is nothing illegal in what it is doing. There are several precedents where a subject matter could be covered by more than one statute,  TRAI counsel  Rakesh Dwivedi stated.

TRAI also claimed that it has a clear parliamentary mandate exercised through the central government to regulate advertisements. It contested the broadcasters’ arguments that TRAI has just a recommendatory role, by highlighting that it has an additional function under section 11 (1) (a) of the TRAI  Act and that does not mean its plenary functions under section (11) (1) (b) are taken away. Therefore, apart from its recommendatory function under (a), its powers also remain under (b). Both the sub clauses complement each other and there is no clash, the counsel stated.

Reiterating that it has the authority, it said that what it is aiming to do is in perfect accordance with the powers the ministry and it has under section 7 (11) of the Cable TV Act. Likewise, the counsel, said it is not as if the government is seeking to have a higher allowance for advertising air time and is in disagreement with the limit of 12 minutes that the TRAI is seeking to impose.

To support its argument, the counsel also read out various preceding judgments. According to the TRAI, broadcasters are licensees under the Telegraph Act and so the regulator has full power to ensure compliance within the licence term.

Singh asked if TRAI can direct Google on the duration and number of ads it can run. To this, the TRAI counsel replied by saying: ‘I am the regulator and I will decide who, when and how much to regulate.

Coming to the point raised yesterday about a statement TRAI had made in 2004 that "there should not be any regulation at present on advertisement on both FTA and Pay channels” it said that much water had flown under the bridge since it made its statement and the situation was different today. So, it can deem it appropriate to regulate since an expert opinion at one point of time does not mean that it will stay forever, the counsel stated.

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