TV channels challange Prasar Bharti's decision of fee hike

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New Delhi, Sept 23 (UNI) Delhi High Court today allowed the petition of Total TV and three other channels challenging the enhancement of carriage charges from Rs 25 lakhs to Rs 60 lakhs.

As an interim relief, the Court allowed Prasar Bharati to collect the enhanced amount of Rs 60 lakh with effect from September 6, 2008 till the outcome of the case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah directed the TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal) to dispose of the pending application of Total TV seeking relief in this regard within four weeks.

Four TV channels--Total TV, Zee TV (Bangla), Zee Jagran and Times TV have challenged the order of Prasar Bharati for increasing the carriage charges from Rs 25 lakhs to Rs 60 lakhs as it is arbitrary and illegal.

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for Total TV, said there is no justification for enhancing the carriage charges for free-to-air channels whose only source of income is advertisements as they do not charge any fees from the private prograamme producers.

According to Total TV Managing Director Vinod Mehta, entertainment channels earn 94 per cent of advertisement revenue, while news channels get only six per cent of the share.

Single band channels like Total TV and other news channels are being discriminated against the pay channels, he said.

Mr Rohtagi contended that Prasar Bharati while increasing the revenue has treated them at par with the high income channels.

Appearing for Prasar Bharti, Solicitor General G E Vahanvati justified its stand for the revenue hike from channels.

Prasar Bharti has enhanced the carriage charges with effect from August 1, 2008 but the Court directed them to charge the enhanced amount from September 6 and only till the final outcome of the case in TDSAT. The Court directed TDSAT to expedite the case and dispose of within next four weeks.

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