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Broadcasters approach Kerala High Court against CCI probe

Star India Pvt Ltd (SIPL) alongwith its group and subsidiary companies (Disney/ Asianet Star) on Monday approached Kerala High Court challenging a probe initiated by Competition Commission of India (CCI) for alleged abuse of dominant position by offering discounts to select Multi System Operators (MSO).

The CCI probe was earlier ordered on the basis of an information filed by Asianet Digital Network (P) Ltd. (ADNPL) – a MSO engaged in the business of providing digital TV services, predominantly in Kerala.

‘Detrimental to competition’
The main thrust of the allegations was that by offering additional discounts to select MSOs and the main competitor of ADNPL in Kerala viz. Kerala Communicators Cable Ltd (KCCL), Star India Pvt Ltd (SIPL) has placed the MSOs like ADNPL at a huge disadvantage which was detrimental to competitors, resulting in distortion of the level playing field in the market place besides hindering the ability of the players to compete in an effective manner.

CCI prima facie found Star India dominant player in the broadcasting services market in Kerala owing to its exclusive content, significant market share, size and economic resources and countervailing power thus making access to its TV channels indispensable for MSO. CCI also observed that alleged discriminatory conduct of price discrimination among different MSOs of SIPL has resulted into significant loss in the consumer base of the ADNPL. Accordingly, CCI earlier this year (February, 2022) ordered its arm (Office of the Director General/ DG) to investigate the matter and submit its report.

Aggrieved by the CCI order, SIPL, Asianet and Disney preferred separate writs before the Bombay High court challenging the order on the ground that CCI lacked subject matter jurisdiction as the issue of pricing of channels by broadcasters fell within the framework of broadcasting regulator i.e. TRAI.

The Bombay High Court, however, last week, declined to entertain the writ petitions challenging the order of CCI directing investigation, due to lack of territorial jurisdiction.

As a result, broadcasters (Star, Disney and Asianet Star) approached Kerala High Court on Monday whereupon the matter was posted for hearing on September 23, 2022. The Hindu BusinessLine

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