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HC asks MIB and DTH ops to reply to NGO’s PIL by 4 Mar

MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court has asked the Union government and private direct-to-home (DTH) operators to file their response to Hyderabad-based NGO Media Watch India’s PIL against transmission of channels and value-added services (VAS) not allowed by the government.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice PS Teji has issued notices to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and the six DTH operators and sought their responses by 4 March 2015.

In its petition, Media Watch India has alleged that DTH operators are:
(i) carrying illegal channels without statutory registration,
(ii) providing VAS without specific licence from competent authority,
(iii) carrying FM radio channels in violation of FM radio policy and copyright law,
(iv) carrying advertisements and other unsolicited commercial/promotional messages in violation of statutory Advertisement Code enshrined under Rule 7 of Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.

The NGO has also accused the MIB of turning a blind eye towards the alleged violation by the DTH operators while “statutory guidelines are being flouted with impunity by the private DTH operators”.

The petition contended that the licence under DTH Guidelines is granted only for carriage/distribution/re-transmission of signals/channels of broadcasters duly registered with the government.

It also submitted that there is no other provision in DTH guidelines which enable the DTH operators to carry/transmit their own signals/channels except for VA which require specific licence from the MIB.

The petition also mentions that some DTH operators have programmed their set-top boxes in such a way that the remote control device is disabled for first few seconds so that the customer has no other option but to watch the commercial advertisements and self-promotional messages aired by them.

The petitioner has prayed before the bench to grant permanent injunction on DTH operators against carrying any channels or VAS that are not permitted by the government.

It has also urged the bench to direct the MIB to conduct a detailed enquiry into the violations of respondents based on complaints and take appropriate action in accordance with law for violation of DTH Guidelines, within three months or any other reasonable time frame as may be prescribed by the court.

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