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TDSAT ad cap: All arguments done

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MUMBAI: It has been a long three weeks of hearings at Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal in the ad cap case between the News Broadcasters Association and other channels versus the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Several arguments went back and forth between all the parties and, finally, it has come to an end.

The last day saw the music channels, Polimer Media and TRAI give their rejoinders. Polimer Media’s rejoinder was that Article 19 1 a of the Constitution does not apply in this case since it is not a writ petition. It also said that pay channels and FTA channels cannot be treated the same.

The music channels’ counsel Ramji Srinivasan argued that TRAI cannot use both section 36 and section 11 of the TRAI act for the regulation and now do a flip and call it a direction. If TRAI did want to frame the regulation, it should have done so under section 36 and not used multiple sections from multiple acts.

However the music channels’ counsel said that they do have a license from the TRAI but if the regulator wants to use it then it needs to to apply section 7 (11) of the Cable TV Networks act strictly without additions or subtractions.

He also presented data showing the effect the ad cap will have on their revenues. He said that channels in this genre will need to resort to a 30 per cent hike in ad rates if the cap does come into effect.

Srinivasan said that amicus curiae Aman Ahluwalia had said that news channels will be severely affected by ad cap since their viewership is low; similarly the music channels are also in danger since they are are also niche with a limited viewership. And hence the ad regulation should not be applied to anyone at all.

Finally the TRAI gave its rejoinder clarifying that it has framed a regulation under section 36 of the TRAI act and if the TDSAT feels it is a direction then it is not impeded in saying so. However the regulator maintained that it is not a direction, it is a regulation.

The TDSAT is supposed to announce its judgement on the case.

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