TDSAT directs TRAI not to give effect to landing page direction till 22 Dec

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has directed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) not to give effect to its 8 November direction on channel landing page till the next date of hearing which is 22 December.

The regulator had issued a direction on 8 November restraining broadcasters and distribution platform operators (DPOs) from placing channels on the landing page.

The direction was challenged by Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), DEN Networks, Fastway Transmission, and Satellite Channels.

The petitioners challenged the TRAI direction on two grounds. The first ground was that the TRAI didn’t have the jurisdiction to issue a direction while the second ground was that the authority didn’t follow the principle of transparency while issuing the direction.

While admitting the appeals for hearing, the tribunal has directed the TRAI to file its reply in two weeks and rejoinders, if any, can be filed in two weeks after that. The matter has been listed for hearing on 22 December.

“Since there is a prayer for stay of the impugned direction dated 8.11.2017 issued by the respondent, let the matter be listed on 22.12.2017 under the head, for orders, to consider the prayer in light of the reply of the respondent. However, till then the impugned direction shall not be given effect to,” the TDSAT said in its order.

In industry parlance, the landing channel or the landing page refers to the LCN which is displayed first when the set top box (STB) is switched on.

The landing page is an additional source of revenue for multi system operators (MSOs), which is why AIDCF along with three other MSOs challenged the TRAI direction.

Broadcasters, mainly news channels, also use the landing page to increase the sampling of their channels. It has been used to a great effect by news channels during big events like election results and budget day.

Incidentally, BCCL, which owns Times Now and ET Now, is the only broadcaster to challenge the TRAI direction.

The TRAI issued the direction after receiving complaints from stakeholders that the use of landing page has the potential to affect the viewership data of that channel, and therefore it is susceptible to influence the television audience measurements/television ratings.

The authority had justified its action stating that the direction has been issued in order to protect the interest of service providers and consumers and ensure orderly growth of the sector.

It had also stated that the use of landing page may affect the orderly growth of the sector and is against the spirit of the said policy guidelines for TV rating agencies and, therefore the same needs to be curbed.

Earlier, the authority had issued a direction to all MSOs not to place a single channel on two frequencies. Like landing page, broadcasters were using dual frequencies to ensure better sampling and increase viewership.

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