Chennai, once again is turning out to be a Devils Den for Pay Channels. Star India has been put in a fix whether to supply free signals to ARASU in Chennai and follow it up with other DAS MSOs or to refuse ARASU the favour and land up losing substantial viewership in Chennai as well as Tamil Nadu. The state owned MSO dominates all over the state without having a DAS licence.
The Broadcaster is in a catch 22 situation as one of the Chennai DAS MSO M/s Thamizhaga Cable TV Communication Pvt Ltd has approached the TDSAT with a demand to get free signals if same are being offered to ARASU so that there is no discrimination. Since Arasu does not possess a DAS license, it is understood that STAR has offered its signals for Chennai free of cost, without any agreement. The free signals offered by STAR has irked other DAS MSOs in Chennai who pay a hefty amount as subscription charges to STAR. Such discriminatory deals are prohibited by Regulation 3.2 of Interconnection Regulations of TRAI, as the same would remove the equity of level playing field. Since the reply of STAR to the tribunal was highly ambiguous, the tribunal by its order dated 13-02-2015 has directed to implead Arasu in the case, and posted the matter for 24-03-2015 and added a rider for Arasu to file its reply within three weeks.
As reported by Krishnamoorthy Siddhan from Chennai, Arasu has admitted the provision of pay channels of STAR in Chennai without any charges, through various communications. If it is established that STAR has provided signals free of cost and authorized ARASU for retransmission in Chennai, then STAR might have to provide its signals for free to all other MSOs. On the other hand if STAR has not authorized ARASU for retransmission of signals in Chennai, which would be inferred that ARASU is indulging in piracy and STAR might have to initiate criminal action against the officials of ARASU as it has already done against SITI cable in Mumbai for the same reason. Would STAR risk its entire carriage in Tamil Nadu (except Chennai) by initiating criminal action against the Chairman, Managing Director and other Directors who are senior IAS officers of Tamil Nadu Government?
The out come of the case may also adversely affect other Pay Channel Broadcasters who provide free signals to Arsau in Chennai. Further DAS MSOs all over the country have an option to demand free signals from STAR which would cut the roots of pay channel subscription in all DAS notified areas in the country. The above order of the TDSAT has made 24-03-2015 as an important date for entire Pay Channel broadcasters.