The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed TRAI not to take any action against ESPN in a case related to alleged violation of guidelines on pricing plan for direct-to-home operators. During the proceedings, the TDSAT Bench directed TRAI not to take any further step over suspension of ESPN’s downlinking licence as it was going for a final hearing on the matter.
“The matter is now listed for final hearing on January 13, 2009. Meanwhile, no steps would be taken by respondent (TRAI) for cancellation of licence,” the TDSAT Bench headed by Justice Arun Kumar said.
ESPN had approached TDSAT challenging TRAI’s direction saying that the sectoral regulator should have come out with a tariff order rather than issuing directions to modify its reference interconnect offers (RIOs). Filing a petition before TDSAT, ESPN had submitted that TRAI’s passing directions to it to modify its reference interconnect offer (RIO) providing channels to DTH operators was without any authority.
TDSAT had earlier issued notice to TRAI on September 10 on a petition filed by ESPN, which is contesting the regulator’s directive to it to provide channels to DTH operators at a rate 50 per cent below cable rates. TDSAT has directed TRAI to file their reply within four weeks.
Counsels appearing for ESPN argued that the sports broadcaster would have to suffer loss by giving their channels to DTH operators at 50 per cent of cable rates as per TRAI’s direction as their viewership was less.
”They should not go for cancellation of my licence,” senior advocate NK Kaul, appearing for ESPN, said.
Earlier, TRAI had recommended Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to suspend the sport broadcaster’s downlinking licence for its three channels – ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket – alleging that the company had violated pricing regulations by asking DTH operators to pay more than what it charged from non-CAS cable operators.
TRAI’s counsel submitted that ESPN was not following the rules and regulations as laid out. There are 17 broadcasters in the country having 129 pay channels and out of that 16 broadcasters with 126 pay channels have complied with the tariff fixed by the sector regulator. Only one broadcaster with three channels (ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket) had been resisting this, the TRAI counsel had argued.
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