Telangana’s Multi-System Operators (MSOs) that have not implemented the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunals’ (TDSAT) multiple orders in favour of TV9, are now facing the heat.
TDSAT has asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to cancel the licenses of all MSOs for failing to follow its directions to carry TV9 news channel, which was taken off air on June 16, 2014.
Bullet News, a satirical half-an hour show that was being aired at 8:30 pm every day on TV9, had on June 14, aired a piece that did not go down well with the Chief Minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao. Not only did Rao make strong and controversial comments about the programme, which he found ‘derogatory’ he also called the cable operators and had asked them to pull the plug on the channel. On June 16, TV9 channel had been blacked out from all cable platforms.
MK Murthy, CFO, TV9, said, “Since we had carriage agreements in place with some of the cable operators, taking off the channel was unlawful. In spite of apologies made on air for airing the content by us, no heed was paid. We had also sent letters of apology to the Assembly, Chief Minister and other party members. But, nothing actually worked out and for one month we took absolutely no legal action, hoping that some kind of discussed solution may appear in front of us.”
After a month, the channel approached TDSAT, which is a competent authority to decide on that matter. TDSAT gave an order on September 2, stating that the activity of MSOs is unlawful and the channel should be restored.
The major crux of TDSAT’s judgement states, “We are constrained to observe that due to the rigid and seemingly unreasonable stand taken by the State of Telangana, the matter is getting more and more complicated. The matter no longer relates to the telecast of a TV channel or even the enforcement of the orders passed by the Tribunal, constituted by law passed by the Parliament. What is now in issue is upholding the rule of law in a part of the country and the responsibility has fallen on our shoulders.”
The cable operators claim they received calls from the government to not carry the channel. But the government has given a statement saying it is an understanding between the third party and the broadcaster, and that they have nothing to do with this.
On September 13, Justice Markandey Katju, the Chairman of Press Council of India appointed committee to inquire into the Telangana CM’s remarks against media. According to local media reports, the CM had said that he ‘will break the neck and bury the bodies of media persons’ and also said that if they ‘wish to stay in Telangana, they should salute the Telangana people’. The committee panel includes senior journalists like Rajeev Ranjan Nag, K Amaranth and Krishna Prasad of the Outlook Magazine as members. The report of the committee is yet to come out.
Katju on that day gave a statement to the media, saying, “On the basis matter presented in the public field, I believe that the remarks made by KCR amounts to threat of media personal in the state. He violates the fundamental right of freedom of expression and speech.”
Neither the MSOs nor the government of Telangana have taken the TDSAT direction seriously and have been delaying the implementation process. Hence, TDSAT took the decisive step on October 14 and ordered the MIB to cancel the license of MSOs of Telangana. The Chief Secretary of Telangana is also to be present before TDSAT in the presence of solicitor General of India to discuss further on October 29.
Venkat Jagdish, MD, OTS Advertising said, “It is a leading news channel which has got the maximum reach. Even the second channel in line is nowhere near TV9 in terms of reach. We are losing out close to 45 per cent of viewership because of the channel not being telecast. So, we have to compromise while working out the advertising plans for our clients.”
Koka Sathyanarayana, Business Director, BPN said, “As far as we are concerned, numbers are what that matter for us and our clients. Ever since the MSOs took off the two channels (ABN Andhra Jyothi and TV 9) overall news viewership has dropped. Also, due to the instability, the market has been down for quite sometime now. The advertisers have shrunk their budgets from 10 crore to 5 crore in some cases. So, definitely the revenues are getting hit.”