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TDSAT directs News Express to clear Pune-based ICC’s carriage fee dues

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed Sai Prasad Media, which owns and operates Hindi news channel News Express, to pay carriage fee dues to Pune-based multi-system operator (MSO) Intermedia Cable Communication (ICC).

As per the TDSAT order, Sai Prasad has to pay Rs 37,92,150 (Rs 3.79 million) to ICC along with interest at 8 per cent per annum from the date of filing of the petition till the amount is finally paid to the MSO.

The MSO had executed a placement/carriage agreement with the broadcaster for the period 20 May 2013 and 19 May 2014. Sai Prasad had to pay Rs 45 lakh (Rs 4.5 million) to ICC in four instalments. However, the agreement was not signed by the broadcaster despite repeated reminders by the MSO.

Sai Prasad also had to pay an earlier carriage fee due of Rs 12,64,050 (Rs 1.2 million). The broadcaster assured to make the payment while requesting the MSO to continue carrying its channel.

The TDSAT noted that though the agreement has been signed only by the MSO, the broadcaster has all along accepted the existence of an arrangement for carriage of the channel. Therefore, it is liable to pay the amount as it had committed the same through email communication.

Sai Prasad did not present the case before the TDSAT.

In a separate case, the tribunal has rejected MSO Honey Sky Vision’s seeking Rs 10,50,000 in carriage fee dues from Sai Prasad Media. As per the agreement between the two parties, Sai Prasad was to pay Rs 14 lakh (Rs 1.4 million) to Honey Sky for carriage of its channel News Express.

The broadcaster averred that it made payments for three quarters while holding back payment for the last quarter since the MSO had failed to fulfil its obligation of quality of transmission. The broadcaster submitted Chrome Data and Analytics’ report to buttress its point.

The TDSAT said that the whole exercise of agreement between the two parties is opaque and ambiguous, hence non-maintainable.

The MSO had failed to produce any invoice which might depict the due amount of Rs 10,50,000. Similarly, the broadcaster produced documents to support its claim of making payments for three quarters. However, the tribunal found the authenticity of these documents doubtful.