TDSAT reserves judgement in landing page matter

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has reserved the judgement in landing page matter on the preliminary issue of transparency.

The pleadings in the matter on the issue of transparency have been completed. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) landing page direction has been challenged on the ground that the regulator didn’t follow a consultation process before issuing the direction.

The tribunal sought to know from the TRAI as to why didn’t it follow Clause 11.4 of the TRAI Act while the issuing the direction on the landing page.

The TRAI counsel responded by saying that there is no requirement to follow the transparency clause in issuing a direction.

Earlier, the tribunal had said that it will expedite the hearing in the landing page matter to dispose of the matter quickly. Accordingly, the matter was listed for hearing on 6 March with a view to disposing of the matter.

In November, the tribunal had restrained the TRAI from giving effect to its 8 November direction till further orders.

The authority had on 8 November issued a direction directing all distribution platform operators (DPOs) and TV broadcasters not to put their channels on the landing page as it is against the regulation, which states that a channel can only be placed in one genre.

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.

Irked by the TRAI’s direction, Bennet Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), All India Digital Cable Federation, DEN Networks, Fastway Transmission and Satellite Channels challenged it in the TDSAT, which restrained the regulator from enforcing it till further orders.

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

The TRAI had 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.