Free to Air (FTA) Broadcaster Swami Films Entertainment run Movie Plus on Thursday got seven more days to communicate its stand to Prasar Bharati on the deferred payment undertaking and furnishing bank guarantees as the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) allowed the utilization of Rs 1.5 crores participation fee as a special relief in view of the hardships faced by the broadcaster due to COVID-19.
The tribunal noted that the broadcaster had been provided accommodation as it was financially affected due to COVID-19 pandemic. In order to ensure parity between Movie Plus and other similar broadcasters and to ensure that Prasar Bharati was not made to suffer financial loss due to the lack of security or payment for the services rendered by it, the tribunal had ordered Movie Plus to pay for one of the two schemes offered by DD Free Dish to all the broadcasters by way of temporary relief.
Swami Films sent two mails on 26th May but failed to make a clear commitment following which the public broadcaster run DTH platform DD Free Dish rejected the conditional offer of Swami Films. TDSAT noted that the ultimate relief to Movie Plus would be as per the law of the land and its commitment for either of the two offers subject to the outcome of the petition.
The tribunal stated Movie Plus would continue to be on air only if a clear understanding would be submitted to the Tribunal with the broadcaster making the required payments along with furnishing of bank guarantees in terms of the offer.
TDSAT however allowed the utilization of the participation fees of Rs 1.5 crore as additional relief, however the amount stands virtually exhausted on the account of Movie Plus inability to pay the instalment for the month of May 2020 which under the concessional DD Free Dish scheme requires payment of Rs 92 lakhs (67%) of the original instalment.
To avoid further interim protection, Swami Films has opted to avail the concessional scheme requiring payment of 67% of the instalment from the month of May 2020 onwards. This however remains subject to the final result of the petition along with the need to submit written communication and furnishing of bank guarantee within seven days from today.
The bank guarantee for the month of June 2020 has to be submitted with the utilization of the participation fee permitted only as a special accommodation which will be subject to further developments with the issue of interest on the delayed payment to be considered at an appropriate stage.
The interim arrangement will continue until 15th June subject to the broadcaster communicating its undertaking in the meantime. TDSAT told the broadcaster that it should be ready to make the payments on next date so as to ensure that Prasar Bharati is not left without security or payment in terms of the scheme.
Lastly, the tribunal on the request of Prasar Bharati counsel made it clear that if Movie Plus fails to communicate its stand within seven days along with the furnishing of bank guarantees, then Prasar Bharati would be at liberty to take all steps to protect its revenue interest with the cessation of the interim protection provided.