TDSAT asks Scod18 to pay Rs 1.9 cr, sign RIO to avail ZEEL channels

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has permitted multi-system operator (MSO) Scod18 Networking (You Scod18) to make an interim payment of Rs 1.9 crore to broadcaster Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL).

The tribunal said that ZEEL would be required to restore the signals of its TV channels to the MSO as soon as the latter paid this amount and signed an RIO (reference interconnection offer) agreement.

“It is expected that the respondent shall not cause any delay in entering into the agreement if applied for in RIO terms and restoring the signals as soon as the payment is made. This arrangement will be subject to final or further orders,” the tribunal said in its order.

Scod18 had sought an interim relief from the broadcaster’s decision to switch off channels.

The MSO’s counsel had argued that the outstanding licence fee as on 17 May amounting to Rs 2.93 crore needed to be re-worked at least on account of equity, in view of calculations of outstanding until May 2017 of Rs 1.01 crore, which was payable by ZEEL as placement charges.

The counsel also disputed the demand for an amount of Rs 42.73 lakh for the period up to 30 April 2016 on the plea that if such an amount had been due, the respondent would not have renewed the licence for the latter period, which had expired in March 2017.

The petitioner also contested the demand for Rs 79.53 lakh on account of sports channel for the period 1 October 2016 to 28 February 2017 on the ground that this amount had also been demanded by Taj Television, which had been taken over by Sony Pictures Networks India.

ZEEL counsel responded that the MSO was aware of these outstanding amounts and yet chose not to challenge the same earlier when a petition was pending in this tribunal and was ultimately withdrawn on 12 May.

The counsel further stated that the demands were in order and thus the MSO did not reply to the disconnection notice dated 22 May.

The tribunal noted that that there was no agreement in favour of the MSO for re-transmission of TV ZEEL’s channels. It further noted that the talks for negotiated settlement for this purpose had failed and that the MSO could reclaim the right to broadcast only if it chose to apply for an agreement on RIO terms.

When told that ZEEL’s RIO terms were unreasonable and contrary to law, the tribunal stated that the issue could be considered at a later stage and, therefore, if the MSO entered into the same, it should be subject to the final outcome of this petition.

The matter has been listed before the registrar on 8 August for completion of pleadings, framing of issues and taking evidence. Reply may be filed within three weeks and rejoinder, if any, may be filed within two weeks thereafter.