Arguments over subscriber numbers and alleged under-reporting are not new, especially in India. But a recent high-profile argument between Hathway Cable and broadcasters Zee, Star and Turner, has raised the hackles at India’s TRAI regulator and its associated Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate & Tribunal (TDSAT) which admits it is more than somewhat annoyed by having to spend days on frequent arbitrations over much the same disputes between broadcasters and the nation’s MSOs.
TDSAT says that various broadcasters are approaching the Tribunal on a near-weekly basis with new complaints, and that the claims and counter-claims are being played out in an increasingly aggressive and “a rather unpleasant” manner.
The latest squabble between Zee, Star and Turner on one side, and Hathway Cable & Datacom concern subscriber numbers and either the non-reporting or late reporting of the actual numbers. Hathway had previously stated that an average 4.4 million subs took Star India’s entertainment channels. This vagueness was not enough for Star, which wanted a much more specific accounting of the numbers, as did Zee TV and its Turner Broadcasting partner for their channels.
Hathway submitted data to the Tribunal which broke down the actual subs numbers on a per-channel basis, which helped calm this particular storm, but now TDSAT says that it will hear all the outstanding petitions in this particular set of near-matching cases no later than August 25th. Moreover, the lawyers in the cases have undertaken to the Tribunal that they would avoid using offensive language against each other!