SC rejects objections by TRCSL to establish new digital TV

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A three member Supreme Court bench presided by Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, PC has turned down a Leave to Proceed application submitted to the Supreme Court by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), objecting in establishing a Digital Television broadcasting network by the Company Television and Radio Network (TRN).

The television broadcasting station of Television and Radio Network ( TRN ) who operated the popular TV Lanka TV channel from the year 2000 in Sri Lanka and throughout the world, was closed down by the CID and the TRCSL officers in May 2012 alleging that TRN operated a Digital broadcasting network without the authority from the TRCSL.

At the time of forcible shutdown of TRN’s TV station by CID and TRCSL, damaging many equipment in the process, TRN had established a highly advance version of DVB-T2 digital broadcasting technology based and with H.264 / H.265 / HEVC encoding technology based digital television broadcasting station. TRN had the capacity to broadcast 200 TV channels with DVB-T2/H.265/HEVC technology in this network.  This was the first such operation in whole of Asia, a press statement said.

When the matter was taken up at the Colombo Magistrate Court in June 2012, the Hon. Magistrate Nishantha Peiris ordered the CID to restore the television broadcasting station immediately to its original state, refusing the plea of TRCSL to continue the shutdown.

As the TRCSL was determined to closedown TRN operation, the frequencies assigned to TRN was cancelled by TRCSL in December 2012 and also the request for extension of the frequency licence for the year 2013 was also refused by TRCSL.

TRN appealed against that purported action of TRCSL to the Court of Appeal stating that the action of TRCSL is ultra vires and TRN has all necessary Licenses to carry out Digital Pay Television transmission in Sri Lanka. After a lengthy hearing the two member bench presided by the President of Court of Appeal Justice Vijith Kumara Malalgoda, PC allowed the appeal favoring TRN, disregarding the objection of TRCSL.

The counsel Manoj Bandara assisted by Ms. Lakshana Perera of Sudath Perera Associate represented TRN at the Court of Appeal while Mr. Ali Sabry, PC appeared for TRCSL who opted for private bar instead of the  Attorney General. That was in December 2016.

TRCSL submitted an application for Leave to Appeal to Supreme Court to get the order of the Court of Appeal set aside, under the Case No. S.C. (SPL) L.A. Application no. 11/2017. This application was refused by the three judge Supreme Court bench presided by Chief Justice Priyasath Dep, PC.

The Counsel  Thishya Weragoda appeared for TRN while Mr. Manohara de Silva, PC appeared for the TRCSL at the Supreme Court.

When contacted, B.A.C. Abeywardana, the Managing Director of Television and Radio Networks said that, had TRCSL not attempted such action, TRN would have provided digital television services to the entire country of more than 6 Million homes by now, dedicating over 75 TV channels to assist the education of rural Sri Lanka out of 200 planned to provide.

The Supreme Court and Appel Court’s landmark decisions in this regard should be eye openers for the present Government which is forced to implement a highly outdated digital television broadcasting system provided by the Government of Japan at a cost of US$ 135 Million ( Rs. 21,000 Million ) loan, to provide 12 standard definition ( SD ) digital TV channels while TRN, a Sri Lankan Television technology Company, was set to do it free of charge with 200 digital television channels with far advanced technology. the press statement said.

Abeywardana said the Government had to look inward to find talents which are in abundance, instead of looking for the assistance of foreign countries making the country debt-ridden.

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