Television

ESPN, Star Sports targeted by the Mumbai cable community

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ESPN-Star Sports is facing a bit of a hiccup in Mumbai. The reason: Brisca, an association of leading Mumbai cable operators, has started an agitation against what it terms the "bullying tactics of pay services such as ESPN-Star Sports, which raise subscripion rates when they deem fit before important events, blackmailing them and causing differences between the cable community."

They met at Mumbai's Chembur Gymkhana on 21 January to protest against pay channels. The meet was attended by Mumbai's cable bosses and was headed by Kirit Somaiya, MP Lok Sabha.

At the meeting, cable operators decided to black out ESPN and Star Sports for the next three days and it was followed by a protest march to the Star TV office at Andheri in Mumbai, which lasted for just 15 minutes.

Additionally, the operators are demanding a written apology from the two channels' managements and they have sought a legal status for the cable TV industry requesting Somaiya to work out a mechanism to have the so-called bullying stopped.

The operators have also decided to add to the gaggle of cable TV associations by proposing to form the 'All India Cable Operator Association.' Other issues such as royalty, hike in royalty, indifferential package of pay channels, status of cable operators, foreign exchange outgo, video rights, advertising revenues and entertainment tax were also raised.

They pointed out that the television business was taking a cue from the consumer goods sector where foreigners are taking it over piece by piece. And that the turf of domestic and local industry should be protected.

One will have to wait and watch how long this so-called show of unity by the much-fragmented cable TV trade will last.

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