Regulators

TDSAT directs Taj TV to give signals to Fastway Transmission in Karnal

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed Taj Television - the distribution arm of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) - to provide its signals to multi-system operator (MSO) Fastway Transmission in Karnal in Haryana as an interim measure.

The Tribunal has said that the final order will be passed post the resolution of a pending dispute where another New Delhi based MSO - Indiverse Broadband has claimed that both Siti Cable and Fastway are indulging in piracy and taking away its subscribers.

It said the interim order was being given “having regard to the fact that due to non-supply of the signals, Fastway may be losing the market on a daily basis.”

Even as it appointed Mansoor Ali Shoket as the advocate-commissioner to record the submissions of all the parties, the Tribunal said that Fastway will pay a monthly sum of Rs 17 lakh to the Tribunal and the first month’s fee will have to be deposited in the Tribunal by 3 February.  

TDSAT chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh said, “The supply of signals by virtue of this direction shall not create any equity in favour of Fastway. It is further directed that while enlisting any LCOs or subscribers, Fastway should bear in mind that in case its petitions are finally dismissed, the supply of signals by Taj Television may come to a sudden end without any notice. It is further made clear that as a result of disconnection of the supply of signals, Fastway alone will be responsible for any monetary claims raised by any LCO or subscriber or any civil or criminal liability.”

The order further said, “Even while the Tribunal proceeds to consider the rival cases of the parties on their merits, it is made clear that the pendency of the petitions before the Tribunal shall not, in any manner, come in the way of any other authority or court having jurisdiction to proceed in the matter.”

The Tribunal said the cases will be listed on 2 February for framing of issues. On that day, the counsel for all the parties shall jointly submit an agreed list of issues. In case there are issues on which there is no agreement between the parties, the decision will be taken by the Tribunal. All the three sides shall file their respective evidence affidavits by 10 February.

Fastway shall then produce its witnesses for cross-examination before Shoket – appointed by mutual consent - on 12 February. After cross-examination of Fastway’s witnesses, cross-examination of the Indiverse witnesses will take place following which the cross-examination of Taj Television witnesses will take place. The Advocate-Commissioner and all sides shall ensure that cross-examination of all the witnesses is over by 5 March.

Shoket will be paid honorarium at the rate of Rs 7,500 per day. The payment for the days on which the cross-examination of any party takes place, will be made by that party. The three cases will be listed for hearing on 19 March.

The Tribunal noted that in these cases, “We are faced with the issue of piracy of TV channels, that is to say, in case it is established that an MSO is engaged in unauthorised transmission of channels on a large scale and in an organised manner over a long period of time, what would be its liability and what would be the remedies available to the broadcaster whose channels are re-transmitted without legal sanction.” 

Even though clause 3.2 of the Interconnect Regulations 2004 expressly mentions “default in payment” as the ground for denial of signals, “the question that needs to be examined is whether an MSO indulging in organized large scale piracy over a long period of time would still be entitled to claim the supply of signals as of rights in terms of the Regulations. The ancillary question is what remedies are available to the broadcaster and the other MSOs suffering losses on account of the piracy,” the Tribunal noted.

Fastway Transmissions had come to the Tribunal seeking a direction to Taj Television, to give its channels for re-transmission in Karnal. Earlier, Indiverse had filed its petition seeking a direction to Taj Television to agree to a substantial reduction in its subscriber base on the plea that the unauthorised entry of Fastway and another MSO, Siti Cable in Karnal, has greatly eroded its subscriber base.

Taj Television resisted the demands of its channels by Fastway primarily on the allegation that the latter is engaged in rampant piracy of its signals in the area of Karnal. Indiverse also makes the same allegation and states that even though it held dominant position as an MSO in Karnal, as a result of unauthorised entry of Fastway and Siti Cable, another MSO there, and the rampant piracy by them, it is reduced to a state where 90 - 95 per cent of its network is taken over by the two MSOs.

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