SC adjourns TRAI landing page matter to Jan 2020

MUMBAI: The Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing in the landing page matter to January 2020. The matter had come up for hearing on 5th December.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has filed the petition challenging the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal‘s (TDSAT) judgement dated 29th May.

The TDSAT had set aside the TRAI’s landing page direction while noting that the regulator doesn’t have the powers under the TRAI Act to issue such a direction.

In the first hearing on 9th August, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the TDSAT judgement. The regulator had sought a stay on the TDSAT judgement. The apex court had issued notices to the respondents.

The respondents in the matter are Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), Zoom Entertainment Network, All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) and JPR Channel.

In its petition, the TRAI has contended that the TDSAT’s judgement has erroneously held and decided the two legal issues which have far reachng consequences.

It further stated that the first legal issue is the subject matter of placement of a channel of broadcaster, by the distributor on the landing page of a subscriber is not interconnection and hence beyond the power of TRAI. In other words, as per the impugned judgment, placement is not ‘interconnection’ and hence beyond the purview of TRAI to regulate, the TRAI argued.

The second issue that has arisen due to the TDSAT judgement is that the TRAI does not have the power to issue directions regarding placement of channel and that the same could be done by TRAI, only through regulations.

The TRAI has filed the present appeal on the two primary questions of law, and not on merits.

The TRAI has argued that the TDSAT has failed to appreciate that in a placement agreement or a landing page agreement, the parties enter into a commercial arrangement. The distributor of television channels also agrees to carry out technical changes for that particular channel in its system to be placed in a particular manner.

Such activities ensure that the said channel is provided for the consumption of the end-subscriber in that particular manner which has been agreed upon, the TRAI petition stated.

It also contended that the TDSAT failed to appreciate that the Interconnection Regulations, 2017, which exhaustively defines ‘interconnection’, provides that, ‘interconnection’ means commercial and technical arrangements under which service providers connect their equipments and networks to provide broadcasting services to the subscribers.

“It follows as a logical corollary that, placements agreements and landing page agreements involve ‘interconnection’ and they are ‘interconnection agreements’,” the petition notes.

The TRAI had on 3rd December 2018 directed all broadcasters and distributors of the TV channel to refrain from placing any registered TV channel whose rating is being measured on the landing page or the boot-up screen with immediate effect.

The authority had said that the direction has to be implemented in all cases by 31st March 2019. However, in the case of previously entered agreements, efforts may be made to implement these directions as soon as possible.

It had also stated that the information of such pre-existing agreements with full details of the parties to the agreement, the territory, agreement period and other relevant details may be submitted to the authority within seven days from the date of issuance of this direction.

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