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Delhi HC asks MIB and broadcasters to resolve ad cap matter before 11 Feb

MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court has given the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) time until 11 February to resolve the ad cap matter with the petitioners, which include news, regional and music broadcasters. If they fail to resolve the issue, the court will begin the hearing in the matter from that date.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) counsel once again told the bench of Justice Jayant Nath that the negotiations were on with the government to resolve the matter.

The MIB counsel also acknowledged that the government was talking to the appellants to resolve the matter, following which the bench adjourned the matter to 11 February with an oral order that the matter be resolved before the next date of hearing.

If the two parties failed to resolve the matter out of court, the HC would commence hearing in the matter, the bench said.

The interim order restraining the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from taking coercive action against petitioners will continue. The ad cap matter has been adjourned many times since the matter reached the Delhi High Court in December 2013.

In the earlier hearing on 23 September, the HC had accepted Home Cable Network’s application to be impleaded in the matter. The multi-system operator (MSO) prayed for dismissal of the NBA petition.

The HC had again adjourned the ad cap case to 27 November as NBA senior counsel S Ganesh was unavailable. Due to commitments in the Supreme Court, the senior counsel had sought accommodation from the high court.

The NBA had also informed the court that it was in talks with the MIB to resolve the matter.

Earlier, the Delhi HC had adjourned the case to 23 September as the NBA had sought an adjournment stating that it was in talks with the MIB to resolve the matter.

With I&B minister Arun Jaitley hinting at the possibility of doing away with ad cap rule, the regional, news and music broadcasters hope that the ad cap matter will be settled out of court.

In January, Jaitley had indicated that he was not in favour of 12-minute ad cap rule much to the relief of the news, regional and music channels.

His predecessor Prakash Javadekar had even announced that the government was thinking of exempting free-to-air (FTA) channels from following the ad cap rule. However, Javadekar was stripped of the ministry even before he could deliver on his promise.

Apart from the NBA, a number of other regional broadcasters had challenged TRAI’s ad cap regulation including 9X Media, B4U, TV Vision, Sun TV Networks, E 24, Pioneer Channel, Sarthak Entertainment, Kalaignar TV, Eenadu Television and Raj TV Network.

While the HC had granted interim relief preventing TRAI from taking coercive action against the petitioners, it had also described the ceiling on advertisements as a ‘reasonable exercise’ while granting relief to Telugu broadcaster MAA TV.