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TDSAT orders Arasu Cable to pay Rs 138.7 crore to SPNI within two months

The dispute between the MSO and Sony Network is over the non-disclosure of bouquet packs by Arasu

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has ordered the Tamil Nadu-based Arasu TV cable corporation to pay Sony Pictures Network India Rs 138.7 crore- 50% of the total withstanding charges of the Rs 277.5 crore- within two months.

The order from TDSAT comes in connection with the issue of underreporting the subscriber base of the channels. The issue came to light after the broadcaster conducted the audit of Arasu’s addressable systems and found seven unreported DPO packages and details of subscribers which were not supplied by Arasu in its subscriber reports.

The guidelines from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) state that MSOs are required to hold digital audits of their head ends once a year. If the DPO fails in doing so, the broadcaster can also get it done via empanelled auditors. 

After Sony raised the issue, an audit was conducted by TRAI-empanelled audit agency BDO India in December 2020. This audit found that SPNI channels were indeed not disclosed in the monthly subscriber reports to the broadcaster. According to the broadcaster, this also impacted their revenue. 

Now the tribunal in its interim order has directed Arasu to pay 50% of SPNI’s total demand. 

“In view of such findings and considering the chance and probability of success of the petitioner or the respondent, this Tribunal is inclined to follow some of its earlier orders in similar circumstances whereby broadcaster’s demand of similar nature was directed to be met by the concerned MSO/DPO but only to the extent of 50%. Similar arrangement would be just and proper in this case also, hence the respondent is directed to pay 50% of the total demand of Rs 277,51,90,451/- as contained in the demand notice dated 3.3.2021 (Annexure P - 26 colly).” 

If the MSO fails to complete this payment within a two-month period, SPNI can also discontinue its channels with the MSO. "If 50% of the amount indicated above is paid within two months from today, the petitioner shall not issue disconnection notice without seeking leave of the Tribunal. This interim order is only with regard to demand based on audit report as contained in Annexure P - 26 (colly). In respect of regular invoices and current demands, the parties are expected to act in accordance with the agreement and trade practice. The payment in terms of this order shall abide by final adjudication in this matter," the tribunal added,” the TDSAT order said. 

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