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Cap on TV ads, challenge to stay 'action against channels' hearing put off

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court today adjourned the hearing of the ad cap on television channels again, this time to 12 January 2017, with no resolution in sight to the imbroglio.

Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangeeta Dhingra told the counsel present when the matter came up that it would be heard at the next date. No reason was attributed by the Court for the adjournment.

On 1 August 2016, the matter was put off to today by the chief justice and Justice Jayant Nath as they did not have time to hear the matter in view of part-heard cases. 

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

(Thus, the hearing will come up almost two years after then I and B Minister Arun Jaitley had said at a public function that he did not see the need for any kind caps on the media.)

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

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

Earlier, on 27 November 2015, the court presided over by the chief justice had said the matter had been pending for sometime 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. 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, a 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, seeks to charge MIB with dereliction of 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. 

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

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