Tata Sky to pay ₹383 crore licence fee dues

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on April 29, 2014 Published on April 29, 2014

Harit Nagpal

TDSAT to hear major DTH operators’ plea against Govt notice on May 6

Leading Direct-to-home (DTH) operator Tata Sky has decided to pay licence fee dues of ₹383 crore to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

This comes in the backdrop of a petition by three major DTH operators challenging the Government’s notice demanding payment of licence fee arrears, which is to be heard on May 6 by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

Officials in the know told Business Line that with Tata Sky paying up the licence fee, it had paved the way for a deal agreement with TDSAT. The resolution by Tata Sky could ensure that other DTH operators also fall in line and pay up the disputed amount, added officials.

The Ministry had recently sent a notice to six private DTH operators with regard to licence fee dues amounting to ₹2,066 crore.

Tata Sky said it has submitted a demand draft to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on April 29.

The company said the amount covers the licence fee for the year 2013-14, per the rate specified for licence as well as past dues, for which the Ministry had recently raised a demand note.

Earlier, the three petitioners — Tata Sky, Sun Direct TV and Reliance Big TV — had alleged that the demand by the Ministry amounted to contempt of court, as the matter was pending before the Supreme Court.

However, conscious that TDSAT or the Supreme Court could be moved in the matter, a caveat had been filed by the Ministry in this regard.

The six private operators had been asked to pay the amount within 15 days. With regard to the payment, Harit Nagpal, CEO, Tata Sky said: “We hope that this will end the long-standing dispute on the subject and pave the way forward for a constructive rationalisation of taxes, with the support of our parent Ministry.”

The operators had contended that the licence fee was on gross revenue (GR), whereas they had been asked to pay the fee on the basis of Actual Gross Revenue (AGR).

The operators had also demanded that the fee be only on subscription revenue, and not on allied earnings, such as dividend and interest income.

Other companies in the DTH market include Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV and Videocon d2h.

According to TRAI’s Indian Telecom Services performance indicator report for the quarter ended December 2013, only 35.81 million subscribers of the six private DTH service providers were active out of 62.97 million registered subscribers, working out to around 56.87 per cent.

Incidentally, the number of news and non-news channels has become almost equal, with the Government recently revealing it has so far given permission to 786 television channels in the country.

The I&B Ministry noted earlier this year that the number of news and current affairs channels is 389, while the number of non-news channels (general entertainment) is 397.

Published on April 29, 2014
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