TDSAT to hear all six DTH ops plea on licence fee on 6 May

NEW DELHI: The government has assured the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that it will not pressurise the private direct-to-home (DTH) operators with regard to its demand for payment of licence fee until the next date of hearing, which is on 6 May.


This assurance was given to the Tribunal, which had yesterday morning given directions to the government to respond to petitions by Tata Sky, Reliance Big TV and Sun Direct to respond within three weeks,


However, the Tribunal decided to hear the matter again today when the other private DTH operators - Dish TV, Videocon d2h and Airtel Digital TV - mentioned the issue before the Tribunal yesterday afternoon and also pointed out that Clause 3.1.1 in Reliance’s licence was different from the corresponding clause in the licence granted to Tata Sky. 


Following this, the Tribunal had recalled its order with regard to Reliance and said ‘we regret this material difference was not pointed out to us when the case was taken up for preliminary hearing.’


But counsel for Reliance Big TV today assured the Tribunal that the relevant clause had been subsequently changed and that the DTH operator stood on the same footing as other operators.  


Although the government opposed the petitions when they came up for hearing, the Tribunal stood by its earlier order of hearing the matter on 6 May and said the private operators could file rejoinders, if any, within one week of the government’s reply.


Even as the petitioners have alleged that the demand by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry is contempt of court as a matter in this regard is pending in the Supreme Court, I and B Secretary Bimal Julka had told that the apex court had not issued any stay order.


However, conscious that the TDSAT or the Supreme Court may be moved in the matter, a caveat had been filed by the Ministry in this regard.


The Ministry had recently sent a notice to the six private DTH Operators with regard to licence fee dues amounting to Rs 2,066 crore. 


According to the notice sent early last week, the six private operators have been asked to pay the amount within fifteen days. 


However, most of the operators contacted by said they had cleared the dues of licence fee. 


The operators say the licence fee as demanded under the rules is on gross revenue (GR) whereas they have been asked to pay the fee on the basis of Actual Gross Revenue (AGR). The operators have said the fee should be only on subscription revenue and not on allied earnings such as dividend and interest income. 

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