Regulators

TDSAT directs Taj TV to restore Zee signals to Hathway; to hear MSOs plea late next month

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NEW DELHI: Taj Television has been directed by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to restore with immediate effect the signals of Zee TV channels to Hathway Cable and Datacom, pending final hearing of the petition by the latter.

TDSAT Chairman Justice Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh also directed Hathway as an interim measure to make payment of the monthly subscription fees from 1 April 2014 (in case of Kolkata and Digital Addressable System - II areas) and from 1 May 2014 (in case of Delhi and Mumbai) up to 31 July at the rate of Rs 21.60 cost per subscriber basis.

The Tribunal has asked Taj to reply to the petition filed by Hathway in three weeks and asked Hathway to file a rejoinder if any, two weeks thereafter.

Zee channels were earlier being distributed to Hathway by Media Pro but the latter was not in a position to renew the agreements in view of the regulations issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India around the same time the earlier agreements came to end.

Thus, the Zee group of channels came to be handled by Taj Television. But when discussions between Hathway and Taj Television for Zee TV channels failed to yield any results, Taj TV on 26 June sent the RIO based agreement executed from its side. There was delay on the part of Hathway in executing the RIO based agreement and in the meanwhile, Taj Television issued the disconnection notice under regulation 6.1 on 8 July 2014 and the public notice under regulation 6.5 on 11 July 2014.

On 28 July 2014, Hathway counter-signed the RIO based agreement and sent it back to Taj Television.  On the same day, Hathway also sent a cheque dated 31 July for Rs 16.8 crore.  

According to it, this amount was in full payment of the arrears of the monthly subscription fees for the period 1 April to 31 July 2014, calculated at the rate specified under the fixed fee agreements with Media Pro that had expired on 30 March and 30 April.

However, Taj did not accept the cheque and sent it back and deactivated the signals on 31 July.

This led to the present petition by Hathway. During arguments, Hathway maintained that the RIO agreement can only come into effect prospectively and for the past period it can only be asked to make payment on the basis of the fixed fee agreement with Media Pro and at the rates as specified under the earlier agreements.

The Tribunal has identified three main issues for decision:

(i) Whether the RIO based agreement and the rates prescribed under the RIO would apply retrospectively from the date immediately following the expiry of the earlier agreement or prospectively from the date it was executed by both sides?

(ii) Whether in the facts of this case, Hathway’s liability to make payment on RIO rates would arise from 26 June 2014 when the agreement was signed by Taj Television and it was sent to it for its counter signature?

(iii) What would be Hathway’s liability towards payment of monthly subscription fee for the period immediately following the expiry of the earlier agreement and the date on which the RIO agreement between the two sides came into effect?

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