14 Dec 2017
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TDSAT: Hathway, Star Sports to resolve disputes through mediation

MUMBAI: Sports broadcaster Star Sports and multi-system operator (MSO) Hathway Cable & Datacom have decided to resolve their commercial dispute through mediation following suggestion by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The counsels for Star Sports and Hathway have also agreed to the name of Sriram Panchu as mediator after the senior advocate consented to mediate between the two parties. Manchu’s name was suggested by the tribunal.

While observing that a commercial dispute is highly amenable to resolution through the process of mediation, the tribunal directed both sides to appear before Panchu on 19 April to resolve the disputes.

The tribunal has also put up the matter for hearing on 19 May for directions. However, in case of exigencies, any of the parties can move the tribunal even before that date, the tribunal stated.

Hathway, the petitioner in the case, is being represented by Arun Kathpalia, while Star Sports, the respondent, is being represented by Amit S Chadha.

Chadha stated that Star Sports, with a spirit of mediation, has stopped issuance of advertisements which the petitioner found offending and any advertisements that may presently be on billboards will also be brought down within the next 48 hours.

The sportscaster had launched an advertising blitz in print, television and outdoor, asking Hathway consumers to switch to direct-to-home (DTH) operators if they were not receiving Star Sports channels. The ads were issued after Hathway had put Star Sports channels on a la carte in Mumbai and Delhi.

Chadha also reiterated the statement made before the tribunal on the last date that the disconnection notices would not be made effective till the mediator took up the mediation process.

Star Sports had issued disconnection notices to Hathway in March for the cities of Mumbai and Delhi. In April, it had issued notices to the MSO for digital addressable system (DAS) Phase II cities and Kolkata.

Hathway had moved TDSAT to restrain Star Sports from giving effect to those notices.

While noting that the two petitions in the case related to Mumbai and Delhi circles, the tribunal said that all the issues of conflict between the two sides would remain open before the mediator.

It would also be open to the mediator to make any interim arrangements until the mediation process was over, the tribunal said in an order.

The tribunal also noted that Star Sports and Hathway have been in business relationship for some time but of late the relationship appears to have run into rough weather.

Disputes are arising very frequently and practically every week, the tribunal pointed out.

What is coming before the tribunal seems only to be outward symptoms of the main dispute and there is an underlying conflict of commercial interests behind the frequent skirmishes, the tribunal added.

The tribunal also stated that it is “not passing any order as regards the remuneration of the mediator and we will address that issue at the conclusion of the mediation proceedings”.