Cable TV

SPNI goes head to head with Indore-based Digiana Projects on “piracy”

The broadcaster claims the cable TV MSO is stealing signals and refusing to pay its dues.

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KOLKATA: The battles in cable TV land continue, what with life gradually coming to the new normal.  Sony Picture Networks India (SPNI) ,for instance, says it is cracking the whip on Indore-based MSO Digiana Projects for allegedly availing signals through clandestine means. SPNI has gone ahead and switched off the transmission of its TV channels to the distributor as it has allegedly not paid its dues, and is pirating its channels. While the broadcaster has filed a contempt petition in the Delhi high court, the MSO has petitioned the Telecom Disputes Settlement &  Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to come to its rescue.

The court has taken cognisance of piracy and admitted contempt of court case against Digiana along with issuing a notice to submit its response to the said petition. The matter will be listed in the second week of November this year. 

In its response to TDSAT, SPN has charged that Digiana is continuing piracy even after undertaking before the court that it will not illegally broadcast the network’s signals. The broadcaster stated that it is difficult to deal with such a partner who is choosing unfair means along with withholding a huge amount in arrears – Rs 3.03 crore.

However, Digiana claimed in its petition that the number is inflated and actually stands at Rs 1.48 crore. TDSAT has not found any good grounds to accept the claim and asked the defaulter to produce further materials and evidence. The next date of hearing is 2 November. In the meantime, the tribunal has directed Digiana to pay Rs 2 crore within ten days of the notice for the restoration of SPNI channels. Apart from payment Rs 2 crore, TDSAT also directed Digiana to clear dues of all forthcoming invoices within a period of 15 days from the receipt of Invoice.

When indiantelevision.com reached out to the MSO, a senior staff member said that they had requested SPN for a fee waiver due to loss of revenue in Covid2019 crisis. He claimed that instead of waiving fees, the broadcaster hiked its bouquet price, which made the entire situation more difficult for its management. He also added that SPNI did not properly inform the MSO about the disconnection.

indiantelevision.com tried reaching the CEO of Digiana for comment but he was unavailable at the time of publication.

This isn't the first time that Digiana is in the dock over illegal transmissions of a broadcaster's signals. Last year, the Madhya Pradesh police registered a case against Digiana Projects after investigations revealed that the MSO had been stealing and broadcasting the signals of Star India at about 26 locations across the country.

Major broadcasters have frequently complained about unauthorised transmission. Even major MSOs have also raised their voice against illegal theft of signals. A number of complaints before the MIB and TRAI remain unsolved, a senior executive recently said.

The latest controversy involving SPN and Digiana comes amid an ongoing stand-off between broadcasters and TRAI over the amended new tariff order (NTO 2.0). While the case is sub-judice, the overall instability in the industry due to Covid2019 has precipitated more conflicts regarding signing agreements, timely payments, piracy, etc.

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