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Regulations skewed against broadcasters: Star India counsel Dwivedi

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NEW DELHI: Noting that the Telecommunications (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Digital Addressable System) Regulations 2012 ‘are skewed’ against the broadcaster in every respect’, Star counsel Rakesh Dwivedi said today that there are provisions only for ‘must provide’ and not ‘must carry’.

Thus, the broadcaster does not get paid by a multisystem operator (MSO) for providing the channels, but only when a subscriber wants to take it from the MSO.

Furthermore, Clause 5 is clear that no broadcaster can compel a MSO to provide his channel to the subscriber and gives an option to the subscriber to choose the channel he wants, Dwivedi said in the ongoing hearing before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal in the cases linked to Taj TV signals for Turner and Zee TV.

The Regulations also say that if a broadcaster insisted on a placement of his channel, it would amount to unreasonable terms. The same applied to creation of bouquets by the broadcaster.  

Referring to the charge that the RIO does not mention bouquet, Dwivedi said there is no question of a bouquet, adding that there would be no point in creating bouquets if the MSO has the right to unbundle it.

Furthermore, offering all the channels of the broadcaster does not amount to a bouquet, because even the dictionaries define ‘bouquet’ as an assortment out of which the subscriber can choose.

Even in the case of MediaPro, Dwivedi said no bouquets had been offered and if MediaPro on its own offered any channels in the form of bouquets, it said so.

Referring to the arguments advanced on behalf of the MSOs, he said there was no reference to being reasonable in clause five which was confined to mutual negotiations and this reference was only with reference to the Reference Interconnect Offer.

He said that it was also necessary to understand that an RIO was only an offer and not an agreement or contract and therefore ‘cannot be judged on the anvil’.

Even otherwise, the MSOs had not challenged the RIO but that it should have been brought in only after negotiations fail. 

At the outset, Dwivedi said the charge against Star and Zee was that they were conspiring with other MSOs because of the closeness to Den and to drive the petitioner MSOs out of business. He also denied the contentions made by the petitioner MSOs that certain other MSOs were being given greater discounts.

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