22 Nov 2017
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TDSAT directs Telangana govt to ensure security of MSO for restoring TV9 signal

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed multi-system operator (MSO) Siti Vision Digital Media to resume transmission of TV9 without any delay.

The tribunal has also directed the Telangana government to give full protection to the personnel and properties of the MSO to ensure that no untoward incident takes place as a result of the petitioner’s broadcast.

Associated Broadcasting Co Pvt Ltd (ABCPL), which owns and operates TV9, had filed a petition in TDSAT alleging that the MSO had stopped transmission of its channel without any valid reason. The tribunal disposed of the petition as nothing survives in the matter.

The Telangana MSO Association had in June decided to switch off two Telugu news channels for their alleged anti-Telangana stand. The two news channels were blocked for a couple of days.

On 14 August 2014, the tribunal had issued notices to the Union of India through the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry secretary and the home secretary of the state of Telangana. It had also directed the petitioner to also effect service of notice through a dasti.

K Parameshwar appeared for the I&B secretary; however, no one appeared for the Telangana home secretary.

Parameshwar stated that the ministry had received a complaint from the petitioner and has taken cognisance of the matter. He also said that the ministry may revoke the licence of the respondent, but that would be of no help to the petitioner.

He further submitted that law and order being a state subject, the ministry is not in a position to do much in this matter. It said that it has taken up the matter with the Telangana chief minister.

Siti Vision Digital Media counsel Tejveer Singh Bhatia stated that the broadcast of some TV9 programmes had given rise to law and order problems, and the office and the head-end of the MSO had faced threats of violence from some unruly crowds.

The tribunal pointed out that the blacking out of the petitioner’s channel on grounds of alleged or perceived threat of mob violence brings in the issue of the petitioner’s rights to speech and expression, and to carry on trade and business guaranteed by the Constitution.

Some sections of people may not find some programmes broadcast by the petitioner very pleasing or even palatable, but the essence of the right to speech and expression lies in the exercise of the right against the dominant public mood and sentiment, it said.

As long as the contents of the petitioner’s broadcast do not violate any law, the channels cannot be taken off air on threat of violence, it added.

In such a case, it is those who indulge in violence would be breaking the law and the state and its authorities must act against the offenders and not against the broadcaster, the tribunal noted.

Observing that there is no material to prove that the petitioner’s channels are in breach of any of the provisions of law, the tribunal directed the MSO to resume transmission of the petitioner’s channel without any delay.