Bharti Telemedia, Star dispute lands up in TDSAT

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has asked direct to home (DTH) operator Bharti Telemedia and broadcaster Star India to negotiate and enter into an agreement.

Bharti Telemedia had moved TDSAT against Star India’s disconnection notice. The tribunal has restrained Star from giving effect to its disconnection notice while directing the DTH operator to clear the dues.

“Parties are at liberty to negotiate and enter into an agreement in accordance with the regulations and their understanding. If need be, either of the party can file an application for clarification and directions,” the TDSAT said in the order.

On 16 February, Star had issued a disconnection notice to Bharti Telemedia for non-signing of the subscription agreement, non-payment of subscription fees and non-submission of subscribers reports.

However, even before the broadcaster gave effect to its disconnection notice the DTH operator decided to temporarily discontinue Star India channels from its subscription packs from 8 March as it has not been to come at mutually acceptable terms with the broadcaster.

“Due to failure to arrive at mutually acceptable terms with Star India Pvt. Ltd, with effect from 8th March 2018 all STAR network channels will be temporarily discontinued from your packs,” the DTH operator informed its subscribers.

The tribunal has also clubbed the matter with those involving Star India and DTH operators Dish TV and Videocon d2h. The two DTH operators had moved TDSAT in August 2017 after Star rebranded its Hindi GEC Life OK as Star Bharat and launched the pay channel on DD’s free DTH platform Free Dish.

The DTH operators have sought a discount on subscription fee since the channel is available for free on Free Dish while subscribers of pay platforms will have to pay for the same channel.

“We are of the view that the matter requires consideration because a similar issue is already pending before this Tribunal vide B.P. Nos.346 & 347 of 2017 as well as B.P.No.324 of 2017. The petition is admitted for being heard together with those petitions. No notice need be issued as the respondent has appeared on advance notice,” the TDSAT said in its order.

The tribunal directed the DTH operator to pay all other lawful dues in accordance with the agreement by the due date as indicated in Star’s letter dated 7 March, except the amount of Rs. 9.8. crore.

This interim order shall continue until further orders.

It also clarified that for the period of March 2018, the amount payable by the DTH operator will be paid on due dates in April 2018 as per extant arrangement and as reflected in principle by the letter of the respondent dated 7 March.

The matter has been posted for hearing under the head “for directions” along with Dish TV and Videocon d2h matters on 6 April.

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