The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ordered STAR Group to offer its channels to ASC Enterprises promoted DishTV within 15 days, but has directed DishTV to accept both the bouquets of STAR Group.
Giving its final judgment on the ASC Enterprises vs STAR India Pvt Ltd case, the Tribunal said, “We give 15 days’ time to the respondent to make an offer to the petitioner incorporating the above terms and failure to do so would be construed as denial of signals to the petitioner, who is given the liberty to approach the Tribunal for such future relief as he may be entitled to under the law.”
STAR Group’s channels are distributed in two bouquets – bouquet 1 and bouquet 2 – on cable platforms. In its petition, ASC Enterprises had asked for grant of signals for channels constituting bouquet 1 only of STAR channels. However, STAR was not willing to give only one bouquet, but was ready to offer all channels of bouquet 1 and 2 on its own commercial terms, which were not acceptable to DishTV.
Discarding the appeal of the petitioner, TDSAT ordered DishTV to carry all the channels of STAR Group. “In the interest of consumers, balance of convenience and equitable business opportunity, all the channels of all broadcasters must be available on all DTH platforms.”
“In case the DTH operators also stick to bouquets, the choice of the consumer will get restricted and the charges being levied to consumers will also vary depending on bouquets, which may be against the basic principles of DTH service. This principle of all channels being available will ensure non-discriminatory availability of channels for all DTH operators from all the broadcasters and the consumer would thereby be able to exercise his choice of channels,” the Tribunal observed.
On the contentious issue of pricing of channels, the Tribunal held that though the rate for these channels would have to be laid down by the regulator, but in this particular case, asked STAR to provide both its bouquets at a maximum price of Rs 27 per subscriber exclusive of taxes. “Respondent is at liberty to introduce slab rate or give volume discount to the petitioner subject to maximum rate of Rs 27 per subscriber. We hope TRAI will soon come out with regulations to lay down the charges for each channel,” the Tribunal said.
STAR had also set a minimum figure of five lakh subscribers for payment of fee by the petitioner to the respondent. The petitioner held that this was unreasonable as DTH was a completely addressable system and the exact number of subscribers were transparently known.
Agreeing with the petitioner, the Tribunal said that the term being imposed by the respondent was not justified and neither in accordance with regulation and amounted to denial of request of the petitioner for supply of signals. “We, therefore, direct that signals be given to the petitioner who will pay on the exact number of consumers, list of which will be submitted from the subscriber management system to the respondent every month. This will be applicable to all DTH operators entering into commercial deals with broadcasters,” it held.
Reacting to the judgment, both ASC Enterprises and STAR India welcomed the judgment. However, STAR India said that they would seek clarification on some specific issues.
“We are now in the process of examining it in detail. The judgment comes at an opportune time as we believe it will help in clearing the air on a number of critical areas that impact addressable systems in general and DTH in particular and will be a positive impetus to their development,” STAR India said in a statement.
“However, it appears to us that there may be some specific areas within the judgment that will require further clarification. Our intention is to seek clarification on these areas at the earliest opportunity and make a response accordingly,” it further stated.
Expressing its readiness to carry both the bouquets of STAR on DishTV platform, A Mohan, VP, Citicable, said, “It is a very good judgment which will set the benchmark for various addressable systems, particularly DTH in India.”