One Alliance switches off InCablenet over pending dues

MUMBAI: The disconnection virus seems to be spreading in Mumbai. Following ESPN-Star Sports, SET-Discovery One Alliance bouquet of channels has switched off its service to Hinduja's InCable Network in Mumbai.

Confirming the same to indiantelevision.com, SET-Discovery India president Shantonu Aditya says: "There are two reasons - non-settlement of the outstanding dues of Rs 20 million for the month of March and non-renewal of the agreement contract which expired on 31 March 2003. Actually, we have been giving them signals in good faith for an entire month in the absence of a proper contract," says Aditya.

InCablenet, in its response has raised the imminent rollout of CAS as its reason for not signing on to a new agreement. A statement issued by InCablenet says: "With a few weeks left for the introduction of the conditional access regime, broadcasters have gone on the warpath with MSOs. Broadcasters have started making a demand for higher connectivity and higher rate per customer, which InCablenet has, in view of the resistance by customers, refused to accept.

The statement also drew attention to the the hearing of public interest litigation tomorrow before Bombay High Court demanding reduction of cable subscription rates, as another reason for not reaching agreement with SET-Discovery.

According to InCablenet, with CAS around the corner, commercial arrangements in a post CAS regime are what need to be discussed.

Aditya, however, dismissed this line of argument saying an agreement has to be in place because services are being rendered and it is not possible to function in the absence of a formal contract.

Aditya confirms that the two parties failed to reach a mutually acceptable figure as far as the disputed amount (of Rs 20 million) was concerned. "We are hopeful that the issue will be resolved soon. Despite repeated assurances, we haven't received payments - which are actually ground collections. We believe that the issue of under-declarations is still unresolved," says Aditya.

Aditya, however, mentioned that Incable Network had settled all the previous dues. He added that the representatives of both the affected parties have been conducting talks and have had several discussions.

The One Alliance team has also prepared itself for piracy related problems and illegal stealing of signals. "Copyright laws have been strengthened in recent times," Aditya says.

Speaking of piracy, an ESPN official has filed charges in three different police stations in Mumbai alleging theft of the ESPN Star Sports signals.

In turn InCablenet COO Rajiv Vyas and vice-president (operations) Manoj Motwani, have obtained anticipatory bail from a sessions court in Mumbai. The ESPN official, Prakash Shinde, in his FIRs, filed in Mumbai's Ghatkopar, DN Nagar and MIDC-Andheri police stations last week, has said InCablenet was tapping signals from neighbouring operators in violation of Section 51 (a) and (b) of the Copyright Act.

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