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Adcap case put off to 27 April, court to hear plea challenging stay order

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NEW DELHI, 29 March: In a day of swift developments, the Delhi High Court listed the adcap case for 27 April when it will hear an application by intervener Home Cable Network Pvt Ltd seeking vacation of the order staying action against violating television channels.

Early in the morning, a plea was made in a mention before Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath 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. Thereupon, the Court adjourned the matter for 21 July.

However when the matter came up in the list, counsel Vivek Sarin of Home Cable pressed his application for vacation of stay. Thereupon, counsel for Discovery Communications said it wanted to press its application to come in as intervener.

After hearing counsel for both sides, the judges agreed on early hearing and pre-poned the matter to 27 April.

The Court had on 11 February adjourned the hearing to today when it had agreed to take up the application by Discovery Communications to intervene on the matter.

Earlier on 27 November last year, the Court chaired by the Chief Justice had said the matter had been pending for some time and therefore it will hear and conclude the case in the next hearing.

On that day, the I and B Ministry had informed the Court that it was in talks with the News Broadcasters Association 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 News Broadcasters and others against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and others.

Home Cable Network Pvt. Ltd had been permitted to intervene on 5 January and the Court had agreed to consider contentions on whether pay channels should be permitted to carry commercials in view of subscription fee charged by them. Home Cable Counsel Vivek Sarin had told the court that the petitioners had not disclosed that broadcasters had given their consent to observe the 10+2 ad cap rule under the Cable Television Network Regulation Rules 1994 and the Act that followed a year later and also under the Uplink and Downlink Guidelines. He also said pay TV broadcasters should not be allowed to take ads as they charged subscription fee.

The case, filed by 9x Media, News Broadcasters Association and others against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India 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.

(It is learnt by indiantelevision.com that this comes in the wake of a statement made by Minister Arun Jaitley in January last year that there should be no ad cap in the print or electronic media, However, no instructions have been issued in this regard by the Minister so far,).

The Court has already directed that the order that TRAI will not take any action against any channel pending the petition will 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 Glamoru, Sun TV Network, TV Vision, B4U Broadband, 9X Media, Kalaignar, Celebrities Management, Eanadu Television and Raj Television.

Meanwhille, complaints against fifteen broadcasters by TRAI on the adcap issue are also pending with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Delhi.

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