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May 2018


Seems like its curtains, for Reliance (DTH) Big TV.

On 15 April 2018, ISRO's commercial arm - Antrix Corporation has disconnected all its transponders to the DTH operator over non-payment of past outstandings & non-renewal of the transponder lease.

RBTV transponders was on the MEASAT satellite for its DTH service. As required by Indian law, Ku band transponders on all foreign satellite must be hired via ISRO, who pockets a margin as an intermediary.

Reliance Big TV (RBTV) is reportedly still in talks to renew its transponder lease but has huge past debts of over ₹ 26 Crores it owes not only to ISRO but also to Pay TV broadcasters.

Launched in August 2008 by Anil Ambani, Reliance Big TV was sold to Pantel Technologies and Veecon Media & Television, in November 2017, with all accumulated liabilities.

In a bid to mop up money from consumers, RBTV collected ₹ 500 per consumer as advance payment (& an additional ₹ 1,500 on delivery) for its proposed HEVC STB, promising those consumers free pay channels for 1 year and 500 FTA channels free for 5 years. All those who have paid, are likely to lose their money.

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Prasar Bharati has told the TDSAT that it will declare a new policy for selling slots on FreeDish, 'in a few weeks.'

Following Prasar Bharati's submission, the tribunal has posted the matter under the same head on 28 May. The tribunal also told Prasar Bharati to bring on record any decision that it takes in the meantime.

"It appears that pleadings are already complete in these matters and there is no requirement of taking any further evidence. However, if there is any subsequent development, the parties will be at liberty to take required steps," the TDSAT stated.

Cinema 24-7 had moved TDSAT in September 2017 against DD's decision to call-off slot auction without offering an alternative plan to allow existing channels to continue on Free Dish. Subsequently, other broadcasters whose contracts had ended or were about to end also impleaded themselves in the matter.

Until its verdict is given, all existing channels whose lease has lapsed on FreeDish can continue with payment on a pro-rata basis.

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In a pre-emptive move, the Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha & homoeopathy (AYUSH) ministry has constituted a committee to control misleading advertisements and exaggerated claims of AYUSH drugs.

The 7 member committee consists of representatives from the AYUSH ministry, Health & Family welfare, the Dept. of Consumer Affairs & the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

The committee will review & monitor the implementation of the provisions of The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954 to curb misleading advertisements of AYUSH drugs. It will also make recommendations for regulatory action, and review actions taken by the states and the pharmaceutical vigilance centres in surveillance and control.

The committee will meet every 6 months or as and when required.

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Justice MM Sundresh of the Madras High Court has been hearing the TRAI Tariff case since early April.

After reserving its judgement for more than 7 months, the earlier bench of 2 judges gave a split verdict. Therefore, a third judge is now hearing the arguments once again, to provide a final verdict.

The main parties in the matter Star India, Vijay Television, and TRAI have presented their arguments while the intervenors All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF), Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), and Videocon d2h presented their arguments later.

TRAI senior counsel P Wilson said that the new tariff order was introduced to prevent illusory pricing of a-la-carte channels as broadcasters were force feeding consumers with larger bouquets.

The Madras High Court's judgement is expected only in early June, when the court reopens after the summer holiday.

Whatever the Madras High court verdict, it will almost certainly be appealed in the Supreme Court, and a definitive final order is unlikely to be declared before July this year.

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The Law Commission of India, headed by Justice BS Chauhan, has recommended that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) be classified as a national sports federation and brought under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

In its strongly worded 124 page report, to the Union Minister of Law and Justice, said "BCCI exercises state-like powers affecting the fundamental rights of the stakeholders," with a 'monopolistic' approach in regulating the game of cricket, and that the "board has taken a flight under the radar of public scrutiny."

It has asked the government to classify the BCCI as 'state' under Article 12 of the Constitution so that it is answerable to authorities, including the courts.

"As per the statement made in the Lok Sabha, the Central Government has already been regarding BCCI as a National Sports Federation and hence, this should be explicitly mentioned on the ministry's website. This would automatically bring BCCI within the purview of RTI Act," stated the commission.

If implemented, anyone can file PILs in the Supreme Court or high courts questioning the selection of players representing India, states and zones. PILs could also target the agreements signed by the BCCI with other cricket playing nations and the International Cricket Council (ICC).

In an interview with the Indian Express newspaper, Justice RM Lodha - retired Chief Justice of India said "It's very sad. I have reservations on whether the government will accept the recommendations, because you know BCCI has always been influenced by politicians and people from political parties. They have a huge, huge clout."

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Turner International India soft launched Cartoon Network HD+ on 15 April. This is Turner's second HD channel in India.

In September 2016, Turner had launched HBO HD by rebranding the HBO Hits channel.

In India, Turner operates CNN International, Cartoon Network, POGO, Toonami, HBO, and WB.

Recently Turner shifted its distribution from ZEEL (earlier Zee-Turner distribution) to IndiaCast Media Distribution.

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Almost 3 years after launching the channel in India, Turner International India shut down its kids channel 'Toonami' on 15 May.

Toonami was the third channel from Turner after Cartoon Network and Pogo.

When it was launched in 2015, the channel provided action animation for kids.

In July 2017, the channel was revamped as an action humour channel.

Toonami had ceased operations in South East Asia since end-March.

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The I&B ministry and Prasar Bharati are involved in a war with Prasar Bharti claiming violation of its autonomy and the MIB insisting that its intervention is limited to asking for fiscal prudence.

MIB has suspended Doordarshan's FreeDish auctions, that were a major source of revenue for the public broadcaster.

In April, the MIB wrote to Prasar Bharti asking it to explain why it was offering FreeDish channels to private sector broadcasters at ₹ 6 to 8 Crores per year, when it cost DD over ₹ 360 Crore per year.

Ministry officials said by Doordarshan's own admission, it telecasts 23 channels at a total cost of ₹ 8,333 core, or ₹ 360 crore per channel.

The ministry has reminded DD that channels, after paying ₹ 6-8 crore, reportedly earn ₹ 500- 700 crore. They include Sony Mix, Star Bharat & Zee Anmol which should not qualify for 'subsidy'.

"The ministry is only concerned about the exchequer's money. There is no doubt that a revenue sharing arrangement in allotting free dish channels would have earned DD a higher amount all these years," a senior official at the ministry said.

Currently, there are 72 TV channels on FreeDish and it reaches around 22 million households.

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Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal has closed the complaint against I&B Minister Smriti Irani for allegedly furnishing false declarations to the Election Commission of India (ECI) at the time of filing nominations for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The complaint was filed by Renu Gambhir, vice president of Socialist Party (India) Delhi Pradesh, under sections 125A of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and 177 (furnishing false information), 199 (false statement made in declaration which is by law receivable as evidence), 417 (cheating), 418 (cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect), 463 (forgery) and 464 (making false document) of the IPC.

"The allegations are about giving some false declarations before the office of the returning officer of ECI from time to time. The complainant has stopped appearing in the case for many dates now. She has been partly examined as witness but her testimony was incomplete and despite court notice, she has not appeared. It seems that she is not interested in pursuing her case any further. No summoning order can be passed on the basis of the testimony of the complainant recorded so far because it is incomplete. Therefore, this complaint is dismissed," the court said.

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The I&B ministry has not yet come across any specific instance / complaint of paid news on private satellite TV channels, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore told the Lok Sabha.

He further added that instances of paid news during election time were directly dealt by the Election Commission of India under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Interestingly, I&B minister Smriti Irani has been quoted in an interview with BusinessLine, on 11 April "It is not incumbent upon me to define fake news. For the past one month my officials and I have been in conversation with the President of News Broadcasters Association and the Chairperson of the Press Council of India. We have many incidents of fake news, but we don't have the mechanism to determine the same."

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The I&B ministry & TRAI received 3,403 complaints against private DTH operators in the last 3 years, till March- April 2018. Complaints related to subscription rate, tariff order, and channel package are forwarded to TRAI for redressal under intimation to this Ministry.

TRAI received 1,481 complaints, and the ministry received 1,922 complaints through the Centralised Public Grievance Redress & Monitoring System (CPGRAMS). 1811 out of 1922 complaints/grievances received by the ministry have been addressed till date.

The complaints pertain to issues like technical/financial/policy matter viz. delay or improper installation, malfunctioning of set top box (STB), issues of interoperability, unauthorised disconnection, disruption of signal during bad weather, improper billing, recharge, service charges, subscription rates, tariff order, channel package, free-to-air and duration of advertisements.

TRAI's regulation "The Direct to Home Broadcasting Services (Standards of Quality of Service and Redressal of Grievances) Regulation," dated 31st August 2007, as amended on 12th March 2009, essentially covers regulatory provisions relating to the protection of the interests of DTH subscribers.

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