Ofcom has confirmed to BizAsiaLive.com that it has revoked six licences of ARY Network in the UK after three of its channels, ARY Digital, ARY News and ARY QTV were removed from Sky and Virgin Media today.
In a statement published by Ofcom, it said Ofcom has revoked all six licences held by ARY Network Limited, which is in liquidation. The reason for Ofcom’s decision is that ARY Network had ceased to provide the licensed services and that Ofcom was satisfied it was appropriate to revoke the licences.
ARY Network held six Television Licensable Content Service (‘TLCS’) licences granted under Part 1 of the Broadcasting Act 1990. These licences were used to broadcast the following channels: ARY Digital (TLCS‐290BA/1), ARY QTV (TLCS‐1550BA/1), ARY News (TLCS‐925BA/1), ARY World News (TLCS1549BA/1), QTV–Islamic Education Channel (TLCS924BA/1), and ARY Entertainment (TLCS1551BA/1).
On 27th January 2017, Ofcom notified ARY Network that it was minded to revoke the licences, subject to their representations, on the basis that the company had ceased to provide all six of the services. ARY Network had ceased trading on 31st December 2016 and had been placed into voluntary liquidation on 12th January 2017. Ofcom was concerned that, despite the liquidation of the company, programmes were still being broadcast on three of the licensed services (ARY Digital, ARY QTV and ARY News). Ofcom noted that the three remaining services (ARY World News, QTV – Islamic Education Channel and ARY Entertainment) were no longer broadcasting at all.
Following Ofcom’s letter of 27th January, the liquidator for ARY Network provided both written and oral representations to Ofcom. These confirmed that ARY Network was no longer providing the services and that the liquidator had been investigating the matter. In its oral representations, the liquidator explained that he believed that the services that were still on air were being provided by a third party. The liquidator also explained his role in maximising the value of the assets in the company and that he was seeking Ofcom’s permission to vary the licences to rename the channels and to begin broadcasting new content, with the intention of then selling the EPG slots on which the channels were available.
Ofcom added, “Having given careful consideration to the comments made in both the written and oral representations of the liquidator, Ofcom was satisfied that ARY Network had ceased to provide all six of its licensed services and, in particular, that it did not have general control of those services within the meaning of section 362(2) of the Communications Act 2003.”
The broadcasting regulatory framework relies on Ofcom being able to identify who is providing the licensed service at all times and to be able to hold its broadcast licensees accountable to the terms and conditions of their licences. Having regard to these functions, particularly in relation to authorising the provision of broadcasting services and regulating the content of those services, Ofcom was satisfied that it was appropriate to serve a notice on ARY Network revoking the licences.
Trouble for ARY Network started a few months ago after a bitter legal war with the owner of rival, Geo Network’s parent company – Jang Group. The broadcaster lost a defamation case mounting up to £3 million brought by Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief, Mir Shakil-ur Rahman. The case was lost by ARY Network for serious statements it made against Jang Group and its owner. Subsequently, ARY Network aired an on-air apology on 23rd December 2016.
On this basis, Ofcom issued and served a notice on ARY Network on 1st February 2017 under section 238(4) of the Communications Act 2003 revoking all six of its licences with immediate effect.