TDSAT wants to hear all MSOs on common date for RIOs, lists matter for 30 October

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (TDSAT) today issued notice to multi-system operators Siti Cable and Den Networks to file their viewpoint on a petition by Hathway Cable & Datacom seeking a common date for implementation of reference interconnect order (RIO) agreements.


The date suggested by Hathway was 1 October, but Star India against whom the application had been filed argued that the matter had already been settled in the judgment of the Tribunal on 25 September in the Taj TV case.


However, chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh fixed the matter for further hearing on 30 October, while at the same time calling upon other MSOs to implead themselves in the matter so that it could be resolved.


After a fiery battle that lasted just over seven months, Hathway and Star India had last month been directed to execute an interconnect agreement based on Star’s Reference Interconnect Offer for Star general entertainment channels and Star Sports channels by 30 September.


The Tribunal had also said Zee would also execute the RIO by 30 September in case it had not so far countersigned the RIO sent to it duly signed on behalf of Hathway.


Before parting with the case, the Tribunal said it was “constrained to observe that the TRAI has failed to examine the rates quoted in the RIO submitted before it from the point of view indicated above. In an earlier judgment [Petitions nos.836(C)/2012 & 382(C)/2011 – Dish TV India. Ltd. Vs. ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd.], we had asked the TRAI to pay attention to this aspect of the matter but unfortunately our observations failed to receive due attention. We reiterate the urgent need for TRAI to examine the RIOs submitted to it, especially the rates quoted by broadcasters and MSOs, to make these serve the purpose as intended in the regulations.”


The Tribunal “categorically rejected” the submission made on behalf of the broadcasters that publication of their RIO on their websites satisfies the condition to act non-discriminatingly. However it added that though this may be the ideal, it can never be accepted as valid having regard to the way RIOs are being framed by the broadcasters and the MSOs at present. “In the state in which we find the RIOs at present, this argument becomes a ploy to turn the RIO into a coercive tool and a threat to the seeker of the TV channels, and it undermines the essence of the regulations, which is to promote healthy competition by providing a level playing ground”, the Tribunal added.  

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