TDSAT directs TV9 to stop airing defamatory and inflammatory programmes

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has disposed off the case between Associated Broadcasting Companies (ABC) that runs the channel TV9 and multi system operators (MSOs) Hathway Cable and Datacom and Siti Vision Digital Media regarding a show that had been telecast on the channel which had made defamatory remarks against the new Chief Minister (CM) K Chandrashekar Rao of the state.

The programme telecast on 12 June was carried by the MSOs and LCOs in Telangana and according to the tribunal was ‘highly defamatory’ of the CM leading to a serious law and order problem. Therefore, MSOs and LCOs stopped carrying TV9.  As the petition filed by ABC involved Constitutional rights and public order, The Union of India through the Information and Broadcasting secretary and Telangana home secretary were directed to be impleaded as respondents in the case.

Although the broadcaster stopped the broadcast of the offending programme and issued a public apology for it, MSOs did not resume transmission and the channel was literally taken off air in Telangana.

The TDSAT had in an earlier order this month directed the MSOs to commence showing the channel. Siti Vision started showing it on 3 September in the evening but had to take it off the very same day as it received threatening calls. ABC went ahead and filed an EA in the tribunal.

On reading the transcript of the programme, TDSAT stated that it found the content ‘extremely defamatory, offensive and inflammatory and the product of a sick mind.’

Counsel for the government, K Parameshwar, informed TDSAT that the I&B Ministry had written a letter to the Telangana chief secretary to ensure that the tribunal’s orders are complied with. The letters of the same had been submitted to it.

A similar case is pending before the Privilege Committee of the Telangana Assembly for which no proceedings have begun either under the Cable Television Networks (regulation) Act 1995 (CTN) section 19 or any other law. However, counsel for Siti Vision and Telangana additional advocate J Rama Chandra Rao pointed out that Rule 5 (A) of the CTN Act (1994) casts an obligation on the MSOs and LCOs to not carry programmes which might be in violation of the programme code and/or the advertisement code prescribed under rules 6 and 7 of the CTN Act.

According to TDSAT, the MSOs have also changed their stance for stopping the broadcast of TV9. While earlier it was fear of public violence, now it is due to non renewal of interconnect agreement that expired on 31 March 2014. To this the counsel for the government stated that this was merely an excuse to not show the channel for fear of public anger. Rao assured TDSAT that the state of Telangana would do all that is required to provide sufficient security to the MSOs and LCOs, as long as the channel does not telecast any defamatory statements against Telangana, its people and the government.

The TDSAT has directed TV9 to strictly abide by the Programme Code and the Advertisement Code from rules 6 and 7 of the Cable Television Networks Rules (1994) and that it won’t make any false or malicious references to the state of Telangana or its people or government or its elected representatives. Subject to this, the MSOs are directed to carry the broadcaster’s channel.

It also clarified that this order would not come in the way of the proceedings in the Telangana Assembly nor would it stand in the way of the authority to take legal action against TV9 under section 19 of the Regulation or any other provision of the law.

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