The Delhi High Court (HC) on Wednesday stayed an order passed by the Telecommunications (telecom) Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) last week, directing broadcasters to furnish information on content made available on over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
The matter is significant since it pertains to the jurisdiction of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that regulates both the telecom and broadcasting sectors, said persons in the know.
Trai’s stated position in earlier judicial proceedings has been that it does not regulate OTT platforms or content related to them.
Broadcasters such as Star, said sources, had approached Delhi HC, highlighting this point, resulting in a stay order passed on Wednesday.
“Prima facie, the court finds itself unable to sustain the order of September 20 by TDSAT,” said the order dated September 28 by Delhi HC.
“The court also notes that the issue of applicability of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, to OTT platforms and the regulation of those platforms are a matter pending consideration before the Supreme Court. This matter requires consideration,” it observed.
Officials at Star India were not immediately available for comment.
However, the September 20 order by TDSAT was based on a directive given by Trai to television (TV) networks to submit details on content made available on their own OTT platforms, as well as third-party applications.
Trai has argued that broadcasters are supplying signals of linear channels to OTT platforms, circumventing Clause 5.6 of the uplinking and downlinking guidelines for TV channels. This clause stipulates that broadcasters shall provide satellite TV signals to registered multi-system operators and cable operators, direct-to-home players, and internet protocol TV service providers.
Broadcasters, on the other hand, say there is no violation of Clause 5.6 since OTT platforms are outside the scope of regulation of Trai. This pertains to platforms owned by broadcast networks, as well as those of third-party players, they say.
Broadcasters such as Sony, Star, and Sun TV had approached TDSAT, challenging Trai’s directive on the matter. However, the networks had not been given any relief by the appellate tribunal, with TDSAT asking them to furnish the information within a week to Trai.
The regulator, it is learnt, had asked the three broadcasters to provide a detailed architecture that indicates the media being used to deliver linear content to their own, as well as third-party streaming platforms.
Star had subsequently approached Delhi HC on the issue.
“TDSAT had earlier provided ad-interim protection to broadcasters against coercive action by Trai. But this time it directed furnishing of information by broadcasters, which led to the present situation in Delhi HC,” said an informed source.