RIO forms basis for final deal, agree Taj and Hathway

NEW DELHI: Taj Television contended before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal today that though initial signals can be given by the broadcaster or distributor to the multi system operator initially on the basis of mutual negotiation, but this ultimately has to translate into an agreement under the Reference Interconnection Offer (RIO).

Responding to an argument by Taj Television that the RIO had to be signed within 30 days, counsel for Hathway said that the date limit applies to modifications in existing RIO agreements, but the deal between Taj and Hathway had to be a new one since MediaPro had stopped distribution of Zee TV and Turner channels.

Earlier, the Tribunal had fixed for final disposal from 25 August the ?deep-rooted? dispute between Hathway and Taj, noting that this would require interpretation of certain clauses of some of the statutory regulations.

TDSAT chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh had said: ?Unfortunately, the dispute between the two sides is playing out in highly aggressive way and one may add in a rather unpleasant manner. It seems to be affecting a large number of people in viewing their favourite TV channels. The disputants themselves are approaching the Tribunal on a weekly basis complaining against the actions of each other and seeking some interim directions of the Tribunal consuming a lot of time on arguments on miscellaneous applications.  It is, therefore, in the larger interest to finally dispose of these cases after hearing all sides at an early date.?

The Tribunal noted that the dispute has arisen at a stage when the earlier fixed fee agreement between the parties has come to end and they are unable to come to agreed terms for a fresh agreement and under the circumstances the MSO has no option but to take the broadcasters? channels on their RIO terms.

Hathway counsel Arun Kathpalia who concluded his initial arguments today said Hathway has only 10 per cent of the total collections that Taj Television makes from different MSOs. Hathway was paying Rs 85 crore for all channels including Turner (while the figure excluding Turner was Rs 62 crore).

He also said that Hathway had been wrongly accused of making changes in the composition of the packages. In any case, the MSO was not offering the channels on a standalone basis and so the provision under the Quality of Services regulations did not apply to them.

When talks between the two parties failed, he said the RIO was forwarded on 25 January and was to be effective from February.

However,Star Sports Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi said the RIO had been accepted by Hathway in November last year which was revised by Hathway in January this year. Dwivedi wanted to know why the RIO should be made effective from February 2014 when the Subscriber Register had been supplied by Hathway in December last year.  Furthermore, no facts had been shown by Hathway to show the end of pleadings.

Further arguments will continue tomorrow with counsel for Star expected to conclude his arguments and Hathway responding to them.

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