MUMBAI: Hinduja Group MSO INCablenet has lashed out at ESPN-Star Sports for switching off signals saying the sports broadcaster was resorting to "pressure tactics" despite "being aware" that consumer resistance to increased cable rates was hampering collections.
A statement released by IndusInd Media & Communications Limited (IMCL) states a service contract valid for two years from 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2003 was in place with ESPN-Star Sports.
Putting forth INCablenet's version of the sequence of events that led to the ESS switch-off, the statement says that in a meeting on 17 April, IMCL had informed the ESS CFO Vijay Rajput about the problem of non-payment by subscribers. Two recent public interest litigations (PIL's) filed in the High Court and hoardings put up at various places urging viewers not to pay beyond a certain amount, had meant that the cash-inflow for the months of January, February and March, had been severely curtailed, the statement says. IMCL asserts that it had given a commitment that once collections start improving, payments will be made and that Rajput had agreed to the same. He had requested for a payment schedule by Saturday, 19 April, to which IMCL had agreed, it adds.
The statement goes on to say that "IMCL has intimated all its distributors/franchisees that in case ESPN-Star Sports deactivates their decoder, to desist from any from of piracy of signals. IMCL has also intimated the (Mumbai) Commissioner of Police regarding the motive of ESPN-Star Sports by filing an FIR against the Company and its officers' pressure tactics."
ESPN Software has said it was forced to discontinue its signal for ESPN and STAR Sports to INCablenet as outstandings had crossed the Rs 20 million-mark in Mumbai alone for January-April, 2003.