TDSAT | LCN once assigned, not to be changed before 1 year; Zee channels to be restored to earlier LCNs

Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT): The Coram of Justice Shiva Kirti Singh (Chairperson) and A.K. Bhargava (Member) heard two petitions together as they raise common issues of law and are based on identical facts.

The petitioner, ZEE Entertainment Enterprise Ltd. had alleged that the respondents have removed the Logical Channel Number (LCN) of the channels of the petitioner before even completing the one year duration, whereby violating Clause 18(4) of the Interconnection Regulations 2017 and Clause one-year of the Interconnect Agreement. The current agreement between the parties came into effective from 01-02-2019.

Clause 18(4) “The channel number once assigned to a particular television channel shall not be altered by the distributor for a period of at least one year from the date of such assignment: 

Provided that this sub-regulation shall not apply in case the channel becomes unavailable on the distribution network: 

Provided further that if a broadcaster changes the genre of a channel then the channel number assigned to that particular television channel shall be changed to place such channel together with the channels of new genre in the electronic program guide.”

Counsels for the petitioner submitted that prior to the new regime under the Regulations 2017, the agreement was with another entity that had assigned a LCN for petitioner’s channel for whole term of the Interconnect Agreement and not for just one year. The earlier agreement was in force prior to 01-02-2019. Therefore, petitioner’s channel could have been available on the distribution network as per the new regime only from 01-02-2019 which could not have been altered for a period of one year. 

Moreover, as per the press note issued by TRAI, availability of channels for the purpose of new Regulations would depend upon the execution of the agreements. All plans, bouquets, packs, etc including the migration of subscribers should have been completed by 01-02-2019. Hence, according to the petitioners, its channels became available for assignment of LCN by the respondent only on 01-02-2019. Therefore, the respondent was legally obliged not to disturb LCN of petitioner’s channels at least for one year.

Vibhav Srivastava, Counsel for the respondent submitted that there was no date mentioned as to when the period of one year shall begin; date of agreement cannot be taken as date of assignment. 

But, this submission overlooks the mandate of the Regulations 2017 (interconnect agreement cannot be for less than a year).

After hearing the submissions of the parties, the Court observed that as per the new Regulations 2017, LCN assigned once cannot be changed before one year even after reassignment. Hence, the Court ordered that the petitioner’s channels must be restored to the earlier LCN forthwith within two days of this order. [ZEE Entertainment Enterprise Ltd. v. DEN ADN Network (P) Ltd., Broadcasting Petition No. 195 of 2019, decided on 14-10-2019]

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