In the past, India’s broadcasters could depend on rules issued by the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) which, in the event of a dispute between programmers and the main DTH broadcast platforms, could permit transmissions to continue without disconnection as an interim measure while negotiations continued. The protections have been applied in the recent case of alleged non-payment of fees by Reliance Big TV (RBTV).
That protection has now been removed. The protection was, for example, in place for the major dispute between RBTV and a number of programmers, notably Star India, Zee and Sun TV.
India’s Antrix Corp, which leases satellite capacity on behalf of India’s Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and which has threatened to disconnect feeds to RBTV on April 14th unless its bills are met.
RBTV is alleged not to have paid subscription dues to most Indian broadcasters, but also international players such as Discovery.
The disputes have escalated because back in February 2017, RBTV assured the regulator that it would make all payments due to broadcasters within four weeks. TDSAT says that RBTV had “repeatedly” defaulted on and ignored rulings to pay.
“In view of earlier orders giving repeated opportunities to the respondent, we are of the considered view that it may not be in the interest of justice to continue the interim direction against the petitioners. If such interim directions are continued, the amount of dues will be in excess of the amounts for which the petitioner had approached this Tribunal. Hence, the interim protection in favour of the respondents stands withdrawn,” the TDSAT said in its ruling.
“If there is any remarkable change in the situation, parties will be at liberty to seek interim direction otherwise all these petitions shall be made ready for hearing on the issue of recovery of the money claims,” the tribunal added.