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TRAI files appeal against TDSAT’s landing page judgment in Supreme Court

A bench headed by HMJ Arun Mishra will hear the matter today

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MUMBAI: In a move that can have far-reaching implications for India's broadcasting sector, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order on landing pages. A bench headed by HMJ Arun Mishra will hear the matter, listed as item 21, today.

The sector regulator’s action comes in the wake of TDSAT, by virtue of its 29 May order, setting aside TRAI’s 3 December directive to broadcasters and distribution platform operators (DPOs) to refrain from placing registered television channel, TV rating is released by BARC India, on the landing page or boot up screen.

According to TRAI, its order was aimed at protecting the interest of service providers and consumers while ensuring orderly growth of the sector. This, however, was successfully challenged by Bennett Coleman & Co. and other in TDSAT.

“In our considered view, the impugned directions are beyond the provisions of the act, which empowers TRAI to issue directions. Therefore, the impugned directions must be set aside on this point alone. We order accordingly,” TDSAT Chairperson Justice S K Singh and Member AK Bhargava said.

A series of controversies have been triggered post the landmark TDSAT order that resulted in disruption in viewership measurement of channels with a relatively smaller audience like English news.

Data for week 22, first since the landing page ruling, saw CNN News 18 upset the English news apple cart to top the chart, followed by Republic TV, Times Now, DD India and India Today Television.

BARC switched back to its previous methodology from week 23 onward claiming it had received multiple representations from stakeholders and the mandate of its board.

BARC’s flip-flip with its outlier policy implementation further fueled the landing page row, raising concerns among stakeholders.

Reacting to stakeholders’ issues, the BARC board gave its nod to form a two-member committee to carry out an independent review of BARC’s data validation and outlier policy.

With opinion divided within the industry, some broadcasters have also written letters, highlighting the negative impact of landing pages, to TRAI and BARC’s technical committee.

With the matter now landing up in the top court, industry will be hoping to get more clarity on this very controversial issue.

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