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Petition wants Star India & Discovery licenses cancelled for charging subscription yet running ads


A petition has been filed against Star India and channels from Discovery Networks seeking the termination of their transmission licences, as the companies charge a subscription and are also supported by ads, reports Bar and Bench.

According to the petition, the license granted to Star and Discovery prescribes compliance with Programme and Advertisement Code, which says a channel can either be advertisement supported or subscription supported but not both. And if a channel is advertisement supported, it has to conform to the 12-minute per hour cap for advertisements.

It added that the channels are violating the 12-minute per hour cap for advertisements in India, but comply with the regulatory framework about the duration of ads in other countries.

Accordingly, the Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), 21st Century Fox (Star India) and Discovery Network Asia Pacific (Discovery). The petition is filed by Vikki Choudhry and Home Cable Network Private Ltd.

Star India has 14 pay channels and Discovery Networks Asia Pacific is 100% subsidiary of Discovery Communications Inc. with 8 pay channels.

Choudhry had filed an online RTI application earlier with the I&B Ministry to understand the action that was being taken against the Pay TV broadcasters. The ministry had replied that it is bound to take punitive action as per law.

More details from the petition 

– The petition argues that the subscribers have a fundamental right to protection from the dual burden of either watching the commercial ads and not pay any subscription or pay a subscription without any commercial advertisements between the programmes. It states that if the revenue is met from commercial advertisement within the cap of 12 minutes per hour, then subscription cannot be charged. However, if broadcasters decide to charge a subscription, then no advertisement can be shown during the programme.

– The subscribers should not be charged for advertisment supported channels and must be available on Free-to-View (FTV) and Free-to-Air (FTA) basis.

– The petitioners have urged the court to direct the two organisations to deposit the advertisement revenues of the past three years to the Consumer Welfare Fund, apart from any punitive action taken against them.

The court has issued a notice and tagged the case along with another petition challenging the QoS Regulation prescribed by TRAI, Bar & Bench added. The matter will now be heard on August 1.

Past Developments

Last month, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had stated that about 133 pay channels (news and non-news) had not complied with the 12-minute ad cap rule between December and March, according to Mint.

The rule restricts news and non-news TV channels from advertising for more than 12 minutes per hour including 10 minutes for commercial ads and 2 minutes for self-promoting ones. It was notified by TRAI in 2013.

The report stated that 103 pay non-news channels and 30 pay news channels had shown more 12 minutes of commercial & self-promotional advertising, on an average per hour, during peak hours from 7 pm to 10 pm from 28 December to 27 March.

Read the petition here

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