ESS switches off cable network in Gujarat, alleges piracy

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: ESPN Star Sports (ESS) has filed police complaints against cable operators in Ahmedabad, Surat and Jamnagar for pirating signals of the soccer World Cup.
The broadcaster has filed FIRs against Patel Cable Network, Anjali Video Hut and Gold Channel Cable Network of Ahmedabad, Surat and Jamnagar respectively.

ESPN has switched off signals, saying that these cable networks have not paid their dues. The broadcaster says that Gujarat multi-system operator Gujarat Telelink Private Ltd (GTPL), in which Hathway Cable & Datacom has a 50 per cent stake, has not paid service charges which amount to Rs 140 million. 
GTPL, which controls over 60 per cent of the total cable connections across the state, says ESS wants a 40 per cent hike in payout which is not acceptable.

GTPL managing director Anirudh Jadeja feels ESS is asking for an unreasonable increase. "We told them that due to market churn with DTH players coming in, a hike would not be possible for this year. There are no outstanding dues from our end. The service charge is not an issue. It is just that they want more fees. We refused to accede to their demands and so they switched off their signals. We currently have no issues with other sports broadcasters such as Ten Sports and Neo Cricket," he says.

ESS argues that the local operators have not been able to face the consumer ire and have resorted to piracy. Taking cognisance of the same, ESPN Software India filed FIRs.

ESPN Software India associate VP affiliate sales TS Panesar said, "The FIR is a first step and we will leave no-stone unturned to ensure that the culprits are booked under the law of the land. We are evaluating all possible legal options to ensure that the culprits are arrested at the earliest.

"We have also set up a local team to detect piracy and act at the earliest. The cable operator in question has been charging subscription fee from the consumers and not passing the due to the broadcaster. This is unacceptable and I hope the FIR‘s will send the right signal."

ESS and GTPL are in negotiations for a settlement, says Jadeja.

ESS spokesperson says, "Negotiations with GTPL have been going on since a long time, but on certain issues like outstandings their demands are still very unreasonable. Given the fact that football fans at Gujarat are missing out on quality World Cup action , we wish that an amicable solution works out soon."

Meanwhile, in an interesting twist the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has urged the government of Gujarat to act against operators stealing Fifa signals from ESPN Star Sports.

IBF has strongly condemned the rampant piracy of signals in Gujarat of ESPN Star Sports channels, the official broadcaster of Fifa World Cup.

The IBF urged the state government to take stern action against all the rogue operators who are defying Intellectual Property Rights and openly stealing the signals of ESPN Star Sports channels in the state.

Terming it as ‘unacceptable’, IBF President Jawahar Goel said, “We urge the government of Gujarat to take the sternest possible action against the rogue culprits. This is completely unethical. Not only have these operators refused to pay the due outstanding to the broadcaster, they are also resorting to unethical means by actually stealing the signals.”

He added that the broadcaster had paid millions of dollars to acquire the rights of such a mega tournament and nobody should be allowed to dishonour that.

The IBF, he said, stood by the broadcaster in this hour of crisis and hoped that the local and state police will take action and arrest the culprits at the earliest.

Goel is also the managing director of Dish TV, the only DTH operator which has so far stitched a deal with ESPN for HD feed.

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