If there is any organisation sincerely working for the success of digitalisation in the country, it is the industry Tribunal, TDSAT. The Tribunal is the only organisation creating maximum awareness among the stakeholders and consumers regarding implementation of Digitisation.
Almost every alternate month the Tribunal holds seminars in different parts of the country, inviting all stakeholders, judiciary, lawyers and consumer organizations. Within the last 7-8 years, TDSAT Seminars have become very popular, attracting a large number of LCOs and MSOs who come from far off places well prepared with their questions and have gone back satisfied with the information about their rights and duties and legal implications of DAS regulations.
MIB has been entrusted with the task of implementing digitalization but has done nothing for creating awareness in the public and the LCOs, except promoting broadcaster’s content forcing consumers to pay for their content the price they demand. TRAI, the regulator, has also drafted regulations in favour of large corporate as if small stake holders are unwanted in the industry. In its consumer reach programmes, TRAI does not encourage LCOs and local MSOs and avoids giving appropriate answers to their queries.
MIB and TRAI keep passing the buck to each other regarding framing of faulty regulations because requirement of regulations comes from MIB and TRAI frames them or give its recommendations. Accepting TRAI recommendations is the prerogative of the Ministry and it does not have the will to accept or reject them. The result is that a lawless situation prevails in the industry and every problem lands up in TDSAT for resolution.
The above situation was well brought out by none other than the Chairman TDSAT, Hon’ble Justice Sh Aftab Alam in his address in the inaugural session of TDSAT seminar held in Nainital, Uttrakhand, on 22 August. Sh Alam informed that in the year 2015,a total of 545 cases have been filed in TDSAT out of which 433 are from the Cable TV industry. He commented that the broadcasting sector is Dog eat Dog industry and worked only on greed, running by trampling the rights of others.
The seminar in Nainital can be considered as one of the best so far as the presentations made by the speakers were excellent and to the point, summarizing regulations, rights and duties of stake holders and information on DAS technology.These presentations were very much appreciated by all the delegates.
Hundreds of cable operators had travelled all the way from far off places, not only in Uttarkhand but also from neighbouring states of UP, Haryana, Delhi and HP. Delegates included Broadcasters, MSOs, content aggregators and LCOs, apart from members of Telecom Lawyers Association, Members of Mediation Centre, judges from Uttarakhand High Court, and advocates and law students.
Hon’ble Mr Justice V K Bist, Judge High Court of Uttarakhand was the Chief Guest. Lighting of the inaugural lamp by the Chief Guest and all members of TDSAT was followed by the inaugural session. Welcome address was delivered by Sh B B Srivastava, member TDSAT. Mr Kuldeep Singh. Member TDSAT, Justice V K Bist and TDSAT Chairperson Justice Aftab Alam also addressed the audience.
Justice Alam praised the work of Mrs Roop Sharma, president COFI, calling her a Champion of the Cause of Local Cable Operators. He commented that surprisingly broadcasters tolerate piracy in the case of dominant distributors but not in the case of smaller entities. He was sad that the industry did not work on principles and good trade practices.
Justice Alam also laid lot of emphasis on mediation which according to him was faster and economical in resolving many disputes. He informed that in 2013-14, 233 cases were referred to Mediation Centre out of which 102 cases were settled. In 2015, 65 cases have been referred for mediation out of which 20 are already settled. He also informed that he plans to organize a seminar only on the process of mediation in New Delhi.
Business Session panelists: Sh Saharsh Damani, Secy Gen AIDCF, Sh Agneshwar Sen, Advisor TRAI, Sh Manjul Bajpai (President TLA) Moderator, Sh Ashok Mansukhani, Director Hinduja Ventures, Mrs Roop Sharma, President COFI and Sh Vineet Sharma, Sr Dir Legal, India Cast
Sh Kuldeep Singh, Member TDSAT gave a presentation on the DAS Regulations and Rights and Duties of stake holders.
Mr Manjul Bajpai, President Telecom Lawyers Association explained the mechanism of dispute settlement in the Telecom & Broadcast Industry as given below.
1.Disputes between Original licensor & licensee
2.Disputes between two or more service providers
3.Disputes between service providers and a group of Consumers.
1.can settle cases under Article 226 of the Constitution-
2.a High Court has Writ Jurisdiction.
3.However, a High Court generally does not entertain Telecom cases.
Arbitrator also has no powers
Pre-Mediation is possible without approaching TDSAT
Post Mediation may be tried any time during the pendency of the case
a)For challenging any TRAI regulation- go to a High Court.
b)LCOs cannot file a case in local civil court.
c)TRAI cannot settle Disputes
d)A group of consumers can approach TDSAT for common grievances only.
e)If association files a case, judgment is applicable on all registered members. Rights of MSOs/LCOs
1.Broadcasters Must Provide – MSOs/ LCOs have the right to receive signals within 60 days. After that they can approach TDSAT.
2.Interconnect Agreements- Must be in writing and will be given back after signatures within 15 days.
3.Disconnection- 21 day notice is mandatory- it should be published in local news paper paper.
4.Even when LCO wants to switch off any signal, a 21 day notice must be given to the MSO/ Broadcaster and 15 day notice to consumers.
5.Competing MSO cannot provide signal to another MSO.
6.TDSAT judgment on reasonableness of the terms has to be settled by TDSAT itself.
7.Signal seeker- Has the right to approach TDSAT.
8.If you violate a TDSAT order- you can be fined even upto Rs. 100000 a day.
9.TDSAT has powers to pass interim order.
10.Appeal against final judgment of TDSAT can go to the Supreme Court- only in the case of a substantial question of law.
11.No Appeal can be made against an interim order.
Sh G K Marwah, Mediator told about the whole process of Mediation and how cable operators could benefit fro that.
Sh B B Srivastava, Member TDSAT summed up the presentations by the speakers saying that there is a dire need to do audit of ground reality of DAS. Process of Licensing has to be simplified and made speedier.
Also he suggested that there must be a non-discriminatory clause in every interconnect Agreement between an MSO & a LCO to minimise disputes.