MSOs prepared to accept RIO if broadcasters assure parity, MSOs’ counsel tell TDSAT

NEW DELHI: An agreement under reference interconnect offer (RIO) is acceptable if there is parity to all, Hathway counsel Arun Kathpalia and Bhaskar Networks counsel Navin Chawla told the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in the cases linked to Taj TV signals for Zee and Turner and Star India’s signals to Hathway and other multi-system operators (MSOs).

Earlier, both Star India counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, on behalf of the case against Hathway and counsel Amit Sibal appearing on behalf of Star India in the petition by Bhaskar Networks of Jabalpur indicated that they were prepared to give affidavits with the assurance of parity.

However, counsel were divided on when the agreements should commence and wanted the Tribunal to decide the matter in the light of clause 5(16) of the DAS interconnect regulations.

Dwivedi said that since the last agreement ended in June, any agreement will only be till June irrespective of the date when it commences. He said there had been delay only on the part of Hathway in proceeding with the negotiations. Sibal also said there could be no concession on the date.

Kathpalia however said that the agreement will be for one year from the date it commences. However, he said this was subject to the interpretation given by the Tribunal to clause 5(16).

At one stage, Kathpalia argued that Star India wanted to give RIO agreement to all MSOs whereas Hathway had been negotiating on the basis of cost per subscriber (CPS).

Referring to Star Sports’ feed to Bhaskar, Sibal said that MediaPro wrote to all MSOs asking them to approach the broadcasters individually. Star India had on 19 May written to Bhaskar to negotiate for a new agreement, but had not mentioned RIO since clause 5(3) provides for negotiations or RIO.

He said Bhaskar did not respond till 2 July when Star India disconnected the signals and insisted that the broadcaster should have given one month’s notice. A fresh notice was given on 1 August for terminating channels.

Siblal said Bhaskar’s case appeared to be that the rate of Rs 39 for the sports channel was not reasonable. He said this figure cannot be a benchmark as it was not the basis for negotiation. 

At one stage, Justice Aftab Alam said RIO defines the parameters of the limitation of the figure. Member Kuldeep Singh asked why MSOs should have any objection if there was no discrimination in the RIO.

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