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SPN India-SITI Networks dispute: TDSAT directs SITI to sign SPN RIO agreement (updated)

MUMBAI: In a dispute between cable TV MSO SITI Networks and Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India, the Telecom Disputes Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ruled that the former should sign the existing reference interconnect Offer (RIO) of the latter.

SITI Networks had approached the arbitrator saying that India’s leading broadcast network was threatening to disconnect its signals from it. And that it was imposing an “unjustified subscription fee hike” to renew its channel carriage agreement with it. This at a time when the nation is under the spell of SPN India’s biggest property the highly popular and most watched Indian Premier League (IPL).

The MSO’s counsel appealed to the tribunal that SITI should be permitted to avail of the signals of the channels of SPN India on the same terms and conditions of the expired agreement till the latter publishes a new reference interconnect offer (RIO) as per the new TRAI regulations.

SPN India’s counsel retaliated by saying that the MSO cannot seek an entitlement to the earlier subscription rates of the expired agreement for the former’s channels as its subscriber base had grown and the broadcast network deserved an increase in subscription fees.

SPN India’s counsel further argued that since there is no valid agreement, the signals to SITI Networks platform should be disconnected unless the MSO executed the existing RIO as per the TRAI regulations.

The TDSAT then directed SITI Networks to sign the existing SPN RIO within one week of the order (to avoid disconnection of signals) and with a provision to switch to the new RIO once the same is published as per the new TRAI regulations.

The tribunal also asked both SITI Networks and SPN India to submit their detailed statements of accounts within the next 10 days so that it could help them settle their dispute on outstanding dues.

Even as SPN India claimed that it had won a favorable order from the tribunal (no official comment was, however, available from it), a SITI Networks official spokesperson responded to indiantelevision.com saying that the “unjustified hike in subscription fees demand has been turned down by TDSAT and the court has directed to sign the agreement on a RIO basis in accordance with the prevailing regulations.”

In addition to this, SITI Networks also appeared pleased that the tribunal has “asked the parties to submit their statement of accounts and the related invoices in reference to the outstanding issue.”

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