Cable TV

Casbaa seeks crackdown on ad masking in Taiwan

The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa), a regional trade group, has met Taiwanese pay-TV regulators the Government Information Office (GIO) and the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) to register its strong concern over the masking of international cable TV advertising (or "clipping") by "last mile" cable system operators in Taiwan.

"This is a very serious problem costing our industry millions of dollars in lost revenues," said Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of Casbaa, according to an official release.

"These violations are having a serious economic impact on the regional broadcasters who do so much to provide market drivers for Taiwan's domestic cable industry," said Twiston Davies. "Another issue is the impact this kind of environment can have on further investment by the networks and other foreign and domestic players."

Casbaa represents 120 pay-TV companies across Asia, including those operating in Taiwan. Members are drawn from cable systems, cable channels, satellite operators and equipment suppliers of all kinds. Casbaa notes that major Taiwan advertising agencies are creating "blacklists" of channels so sharply affected by the illegal masking activities. Some of the agencies say they can no longer recommend the channels as an advertising "buy" thanks to their inability to guarantee delivery of the messages.

Taiwan has almost 5 million cable-TV subscribers, providing a penetration rate of all TV homes of about 80 per cent, making it one of the most mature cable TV advertising markets in Asia.

Among those attending the Casbaa meetings with the GIO and the FTC were senior executives representing Sony's Columbia Tristar, the Star Group, Walt Disney Television, National Geographic, AOL Time Warner, ESPN Star Sports and Discovery Communications. Also attending were officials from the American Institute in Taiwan and the head of the Asian division of the Motion Picture Association, representing the interests of the major Hollywood studios.

"We do recognise previous efforts by the GIO and FTC with regards to their support in this matter but urge them to take an even more proactive role in enforcing the present laws at a time when Taiwan will soon have to accede to the internationally binding WTO and World Intellectual Property Organisation treaties," said Twiston Davies.

Casbaa has requested the following actions by the Taiwan authorities to address the ongoing problems with ad masking by the end of 2001:

(a) Enforcement of existing regulations by the central government rather than the local governments. (b) Heavy fines for system operators engaging in ad masking. (c) Ensure that compliance with the law is integral to the issuance, maintenance and renewal of pay-TV licenses.

Casbaa will be highlighting piracy and other regulatory issues during the upcoming Casbaa 2001 Convention in Hong Kong, 28-30 November.

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