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Delhi HC adjourns ad cap case to 25 September

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Updated: 03:46 PM

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court today once again adjourned – this time to 25 September - the final hearing of the bunch of petitions challenging the ad cap sort to be imposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as the authority has not finalised its rejoinder.

In any case, Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw also noted that the Court did not have sufficient hearing at present for a final hearing in view of the large pendency of other cases.

However, the assurance by TRAI given in an earlier hearing that it will not take any coercive action under the ad-cap regulations will continue.

 

However, the Court had said the petitioners have to submit a weekly report on the consumption of commercial airtime in a clock hour.

This matter had initially been filed before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) but fresh petitions were filed in the High Court after the Supreme Court ruled that TRAI regulations could not be adjudicated upon by the Tribunal.

During the last hearing on 6 May, TRAI Counsel Saket Singh had said that the Cable TV Networks (Regulations) Rules of 1994 were clear about the ad cap and TRAI had only sought to implement that.

 

However, Neeraj Krishna Kaul who represented one of the petitioners – News Broadcasters Association - argued that the case involved important constitutional issues as there were cases where the freedom of the press and freedom of speech and expression are involved and the case cannot be decided without having all facts on record.

 

The case had been first heard in the High Court on 17 December last year and 13 March this year.

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 petition have been filed by Sarthak Entertainment, Pioneer Channel Factory, E24 Glamoru, Sun TV Network, TV Vision, B4U Broadband, 9X Media, Kalaignar, Celebrities Management, Eanadu Television and Raj Television.

The news and regional broadcasters fear that the capping of commercial airtime will curtail their ad revenues. They also argue that the ad cap must be brought only after the benefits of cable TV digitisation start kicking in.

Earlier this year, the Court had also granted interim relief to Hyderabad-based MAA Television Network against the ad cap regulation. However, the court had also observed that the cap on advertisements is a ‘reasonable exercise’.

Four major broadcast networks—Star India, Zee Entertainment, Multi Screen Media and TV18 Group—are following the regulations.

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