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Pantel arrives at settlement with three broadcasters to clear RBTV dues

MUMBAI: Pantel Technologies, which has entered into an agreement with Reliance Communications to acquire direct to home (DTH) operator Reliance Big TV, has arrived at a settlement with India Cast Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India and Cinema 24×7 to clear outstanding dues.

The settlement talks with Sun TV Network are also going on. However, the company has not made much progress to arrive at a settlement with Star India, ZEEL, and Discovery Communications India.

Pantel has submitted an affidavit dated 16 January before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) detailing the progress made on renewing the DTH licence and clearing outstanding dues.

The IT and communication devices hardware company has entered into binding share purchase agreement dated 27 November 2017 with the Reliance Big TV for acquiring 99.99% shareholding.

The company has also claimed that a bank guarantee of Rs 10 crore has been deposited by it on behalf of Reliance Big TV for seeking renewal of DTH licence from the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB).

It also stated that settlement has been arrived at with India Cast Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Networks Distribution India, and Cinema 24×7. With Sun TV Network, the talks for settlement are going on.

The counsel for all these broadcasters have affirmed that talks are going on and they are yet to seek instructions regarding the outcome.

“Apparently, settlement talks have not made much progress either with Star India or with Zee Entertainment Enterprise or with Discovery Communications India who are petitioners before us in different Petition under consideration,” the tribunal noted.

The DTH company owes more than Rs 100 crore to leading broadcasters like Star India, ZEEL, Sony Pictures Networks India, TV18, Viacom18, Sun TV, and Discovery Communications India.

Sun TV Networks has claimed dues of Rs 30 crore while Star India’s dues are said to be in the range of Rs 22 crore. IndiaCast Media’s dues are approximately Rs 14.62 crore. Discovery has claimed dues of Rs 7.5 crore.

Pantel counsel submitted that some details have been disclosed only to show bonafide of the company that it has seriously entered into an agreement with Reliance Big TV with commitments to take care of lawful liabilities.

The company also submitted on behalf of Reliance Big TV that it will be making serious endeavours to arrive at a settlement with remaining broadcasters. It has prayed for granting 10 days minimum time for the purpose.

The counsel for the Star India has pointed out that on the intervention of the tribunal, the broadcaster has not given effect to its disconnection notice but as per understanding, signals are to continue only till 16 January and hence in the absence of any settlement, either it should be permitted to discontinue the signals to the DTH operator or else substantial payment be made to ensure that the dues do not increase.

The tribunal directed Star India not to give effect to its disconnection notice till the next date on the condition that Pantel shall ensure an on account payment of Rs 3 crore before the next date with 50% of the amount being paid within one week.

The tribunal listed all the matters under the same head on 30 January.

It further stated that the proposed affidavit should be treated as a status report in all the pending matters.