Regulators

TDSAT expresses displeasure over Hathway-Taj TV squabble, agrees to hear matter next week

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (TDSAT), which earlier this month gave a lengthy order settling a dispute between Hathway Cable & Datacom and Taj Television, has expressed its ‘deep displeasure over the manner in which both sides are sniping and chipping at each other giving rise to completely futile litigations.’

The comment by TDSAT chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh came following a new miscellaneous application on the issue by Hathway on 8 August and the announcement by Taj Television that it was also filing a miscellaneous application. The Tribunal listed the matter for further hearing on 13 August.

Earlier this month, TDSAT had directed Taj Television to restore with immediate effect the signals of Zee TV channels to Hathway pending the final hearing of the petition by the latter.

It had 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 asked Taj to reply to the petition filed by Hathway in three weeks and asked the MSO to file a rejoinder if any two weeks thereafter.

However, following a new miscellaneous application by Hathway objecting to certain advertisements and scrolls being carried on Zee channels, TDSAT said, “Having regard to the amounts of revenue that is generated by the broadcasting industry, the vast social space occupied by it and the social role it claims to play, one should have expected the two sides, each of them major players in the industry, to act responsibly and show a modicum of restraint in their dealings with each other but they seem to be freely indulging in unseemly squabbles. What is more, they seem to show no regard much less any respect for the proprieties of judicial proceedings.”

While TDSAT noted that Taj Television counsel Pratibha Singh was prepared to withdraw the advertisements and even invited Hathway counsel Arun Kathpalia to have a discussion with her on the issue, she said that distribution arm for Zee was preparing a miscellaneous application for recall or modification of the Tribunal’s order of 1 August.

The Tribunal said: “It is surprising that an application is proposed to be filed for recall/modification of the order even before our signatures on the order are yet not fully dried. The reason stated for filing the application is even more surprising; it is stated that on that date, the local people at Taj Television and the counsel representing it were not fully posted with the facts, especially in regard to the placement agreements between the two sides.”

Noting that “no party can be stopped from filing an application,” the Tribunal insisted that both parties must be present at the next hearing in person. 

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 Television 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. However, Hathway later counter-signed the RIO based agreement and sent it back to Taj Television which refused to accept a cheque sent by Hathway. This led to the petition by the MSO. 

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