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TDSAT gives two options to Karnataka LCOs to receive channels from DEN Networks

MUMBAI: In order to settle the dispute with multi-system operator (MSO) DEN Networks, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has given two options to Karnataka State Digital Cable TV Operators Welfare Association.

As per the first option, the association will continue to receive channels at the rate of Rs 72 per set-top box (STB). The alternative is to implement the packages provided by DEN with effect from 1 January 2016.

For channels restored by the tribunal vide its order dated 18 December 2015 as well as for any other channels that it may wish to provide to its subscribers, the association shall pay separately to the respondent at the applicable a la carte rates.

This includes Sun TV, KTV, Sun Music, Gemini TV, Udaya TV, Sun News, Surya TV, Kiran TV, Asianet, Gemini Movies, Vijay, Adithya TV, Asianet plus, Udaya Movies, Udaya Music, Udaya News, Gemini Comedy and Udaya Comedy.

However, if some of these channels resemble the bouquets offered by the MSO, the same shall be paid as per the applicable bouquet rates.

Under the second option, the association may provide the packages as implemented by the MSO with effect from 1 January 2016 to its subscribers.

If the association exercises this option, its members will have to pay the monthly rate of Rs 90 per STB for Supreme Package and Rs 120 per STB for Superb Package. In this case also, for any additional channels the payment shall be as prescribed in case of Option 1.

The above arrangement will be without prejudice to the rights and contentions of the parties and shall abide by the final outcome of the case, the tribunal said.

The tribunal passed the order following applications filed by the association seeking a modification in the tribunal’s interim order passed on 26 November 2015.

The association wanted the tribunal to give direction to the MSO to provide its members 48 TV channels disconnected by it, on such terms and conditions as the tribunal may deem fit.

The association stated that it is paying Rs 72 per STB for which it was getting all the channels of the MSO.

However, DEN contended that it is providing channels of Sun TV Network and Star India only on a la carte basis and they are not offered as part of any package/bouquet in the territories of Karnataka. The only exception to this are a few channels of Star, namely Star Plus, Star Gold, Life OK, Channel V, NGC, Fox Life and Suvarna.

It is also offering some add-on bouquets to the subscribers. It has been billing the linked operators at the rate of Rs 90 per month per STB excluding the a la carte channels, which are billed separately.

Furthermore, on 1 January 2016 DEN implemented the package system whereby it is offering two packages—Supreme Package for Rs 250 per month excluding taxes for which the LCOs have to pay Rs 90 per month; Superb Pack for Rs 350 per month excluding taxes for which LCOs have to pay Rs 120 per month.

The tribunal said that the implementation of the package scheme by the MSO is in accordance with the DAS (digital addressable system) regime.

Earlier, the association had filed a petition in the tribunal on 19 October 2015 seeking a direction to the MSO not to arbitrarily increase the monthly subscription charges payable by the members of the petitioner association.

On 26 November 2015, when the matter had come up before the tribunal, DEN counsel Vibhav Srivastava stated that the MSO would not alter the composition of bouquets being supplied as on date to the petitioner’s LCOs.

As per the order passed on that date, it was open to the MSO to disconnect the supply of a la carte channels unless the LCOs paid for this on a la carte basis. On 18 December, the association’s counsel Nittin Bhatia submitted that certain channels had been disconnected. He requested for a direction to the respondent to restore these channels.