Regulators

Ad cap & linked case put off to Sept; court to hear plea against stay order

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NEW DELHI: With no resolution in sight to the imbroglio relating to adcaps on television channels, the Delhi High Court has adjourned the hearing one more time, this time to September 29, 2016.

The matter had earlier been put off on May 13, 2016 to today by chief justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath as they did not have time to hear the matter in view of part-heard cases.

When the case comes up next, court is also expected to take up an application by intervenor Home Cable Network Pvt Ltd seeking vacation of the order staying action against violating television channels.

In the hearing on March 29, 2016, a plea was made on behalf of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) that a proposal was being contemplated to amend the relevant provision relating to limiting ads to 12 minutes an hour.

On May 13, 2016, the court had agreed to take up at the next hearing for vacation of stay. The court had on February 11, 2016 had also agreed to take up the application by Discovery Communications to intervene on the matter.

Earlier on November 27, 2105, the court chaired by the chief justice, had said the matter had been pending for some time and, therefore, it would hear and conclude the case in the next hearing. On that day, MIB had informed the court that it was in talks with the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and other stakeholders on the issue of the advertising cap of 12 minutes per hour. This was the first time that the ministry had put in an appearance in the petition filed by the NBA against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and others.

The case, filed by NBA and others against TRAI and the Union Government, has so far been adjourned from time to time on the plea that the government and the broadcasters are in talks on this issue.

The court has already directed that the order that TRAI would not take any action against any channel pending the petition would continue. In an earlier hearing, the court had, at the regulator's instance, directed that all channels keep a record of the advertisements run by them.

The NBA had challenged the ad cap rule, contending that TRAI does not have jurisdiction to regulate commercial airtime on television channels. Apart from the NBA, the petitions have been filed by Sarthak Entertainment, Pioneer Channel Factory, E24 Glamorus, Sun TV Network, TV Vision, B4U Broadband, 9X Media, Kalaignar, Celebrities Management, Eanadu Television and Raj Television.

Meanwhile, the separate petition filed in the High Court by Vikki Choudhry and Home Cable Network Pvt Ltd., which too will be heard on the next date in September, seeks to charge MIB with dereliction of its duties to take action against offending pay TV broadcasters for violating the terms and conditions of the licenses/permission for Uplinking and Downlinking.

The Court had in June asked the Ministry to file its reply in four weeks. Notice was issued only to the Ministry, although the petition also listed several other broadcasting companies as respondents.

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