What does TDSAT order on landing page actually say

The recent judgement of TDSAT allows television channels to buy landing pages

by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published - Jun 3, 2019 8:25 AM Updated: Jun 3, 2019 8:25 AM
TDSAT

It’s official. Television channels can now buy landing pages and it cannot be held illegal. The recent judgment of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which sets aside the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s direction dated December 3, 2018, certainly comes as a breath of fresh air for broadcasters and distributors of television channels.

Breaking down the TDSAT’s judgement dated May 29, 2019 in Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. vs. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Broadcasting Appeal No. 2 of 2018) case, legal expert Harsh Walia, Partner, Technology, Media and Telecommunications, Khaitan & Co., said, “The primary basis for setting aside the direction is lack of jurisdiction of TRAI to issue it in the first place. In its judgment, TDSAT has unequivocally held that TRAI does not have powers to issue directions for 'controlling contents of the landing page for TRP purposes' under the provision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 that was relied upon by TRAI to issue the direction.”

“Further, TDSAT has prescribed that if a similar direction/regulation is released in future, it should be based on data and studies that corroborate the need for such a regulation. It is important to ensure that legitimate revenue streams of broadcasters and distributors are not targeted by such regulations and directions, especially when they do not result in any qualitative or quantitative benefit to any stakeholder in the ecosystem. Instead, the focus should be on augmenting agencies such as Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) so that the methodology of computation of television rating points (TRP) is more accurate,” Walia added.

The ruling raises another important question about who does the landing page actually belong to?

The order states, “Does it belong to the subscriber or to the DPO who brings the signals to the subscriber or to none of these? To be fair, such a question of law has been canvassed neither by appellants, which include DPOs and broadcasters, nor by TRAI which claims to have also acted in the interest of consumers. Mr. Maninder Singh (senior counsel appearing for Bennett Coleman& Co. Ltd) makes it clear that it belongs to the DPOs, who therefore  have full rights on what to place on the landing page. TRAI has not applied its mind to this basic question but has obliquely referred to the suggestion whether landing page can be used for subscriber-related information. Such a suggestion has been dismissed on account of technical difficulties that the DPOs may face.”

The order further states, “We do not know what are the best international practices in respect of landing page or in respect of regulation of LCNs in general. Would it not be the best practice if subscriber is given a choice to ‘opt’? Should the landing page be a default or a separate page in its own right? Can the subscriber be presented with a default, be it a rated or unrated channel? Or, as Mr. Maninder Singh suggests, the subscriber's right is sufficiently covered since the DPO determines the tariff for subscriber after accounting for revenue generated through the default landing page? Of course, the question at hand may have many perspectives and the regulator is not obliged to conceive or answer all of them. The observation we wish to make is that when subscriber's interest is canvassed, it may be appropriate to consider question of their rights, howsoever small, in more details.”

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