Broadcast tribunal TDSAT has pulled up channel distributing firms – Star Den, MSM Discovery and Zee Turner - for letting their signals be distributed illegally by a Punjab-based leading MSO (multiple system operator) in Himachal Pradesh, without getting necessary approvals.
It has said that the three "shall also pay a sum of Rs 25,000 each to the petitioner", the MSOs of Himachal Pradesh, which had brought the case before it.
Besides, the TDSAT has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to probe, if possible, the three firms' role apprehending that without their "connivance" the MSO, Fastway, could not have become a dominant player with 65 per cent market share in Himachal Pradesh.
"We are sending a copy of this order to the regulator (TRAI) only for the purpose of considering that whether it is possible for them to enquire as to how the Respondent No.4 (Fastway), which is said to be dominating the field of broadcasting and cable services in Punjab, had been permitted with the connivance of the broadcasters to sneak in Himachal Pradesh to start its services without entering into any proper subscription agreement with the Broadcaster and by the process acquired 65 per cent of the market," said the tribunal.
The tribunal will also send copies of its findings to the Post Master of Shimla and Solan which are statutorily authorised to issue licence to cable operator and the District Magistrate of Shimla and Solan "for appropriate action on their part" against Fastway Transmissions.
"To us, it appears that Fastway had been able to acquire the market by reason of adopting a wrongful method for the purpose of frustrating any competition amongst the service providers...," the tribunal observed.
Star Den is a 50:50 joint venture between the broadcasting houses Star India and DEN Networks for distribution of their TV channels.
Zee-Turner is a 76:24 joint venture between Zee Entertainment and Turner India Pvt Ltd, while MSM Discovery is a 74:26 joint venture between Multi Screen Media (Sony group) and Discovery Communications for distributing their channels.
The TDSAT direction came over the complaints filed by three MSOs - Solan Sat TV, Bridge View Broadband Network and Solan Communication. They have sought that the broadcasting houses should stay the unauthorised re-transmission of their signals in the state.
The MSOs had also requested the tribunal to direct Fastway not to illegally encroach upon their authorised areas and submitted CDs and its brochure as evidence.
Vineet Bhagat, an upcoming telecom lawyer is pleading the case on behalf of Solan Sat TV, Bridge View Broadband Network and Solan Communication, the three MSOs of Himachal Pradesh.