Cable TV

Pak govt threatens licence cancellation of protesting cable operators

NEW DELHI: Satellite channels like Star Plus, Zee TV and Sony, beaming Hindi entertainment fare, and other Indian channels may have to face longer period of off-air status in Pakistan.

The Pakistan government, according to reports reaching Delhi, has threatened to cancel the licence of all those cable operators who had stopped cable services protesting an official ban on Indian channels. The response of the cable operators was not immediately known.

The Pakistani cable operators had blacked out cable services there from Sunday in protest against a long-standing government ban on re-transmitting Indian and those satellite channels that aired Hindi-language entertainment programmes.

The soaps aired on channels like Star Plus and Zee TV are extremely popular in Pakistan. A Press Trust of India (PTI) report from Islamabad today stated that as the cable operators' strike in Pakistan protesting the ban on Indian TV channels entered the third day, the government toughened its stand threatening to cancel their licences if they continued their 'obduracy'.

"If they continue their obduracy, we shall cancel their licences and issue new licences to other parties," The PTI report quoted Pakistani information minister Sheikh Rashid as saying.

According to the minister, the cable operators, who went on a week-long strike from 24 August, did not inform the government about their action.

Defending the continuing ban on Indian channels, the PTI report quoted Rashid as saying that the Indian government imposed restrictions on Pakistani channels following last year's military tension and Islamabad had followed suit.

The report further said, the issue of lifting ban on Indian channels came up during talks that visiting Indian parliamentarians had had with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali recently.

"They were told that India had first banned Pakistani channels and later Islamabad took a similar step," Rashid was quoted by PTI, adding that Pakistan's policy on this issue would not change.

But back in India, despite a demand from a section of people here there is no official ban on PTV channels and most cable operators in India freely retransmit at least two PTV channels.

Of course, there have been times, for example during the Kargil war, when the Indian government had appealed to the cable operators to stop these channels over Indian cable networks, as they were airing propaganda material.

Indian minister of state for external affairs Digvijay Singh, during the recently-concluded monsoon session of Parliament, had also stated in the House that there was no immediate plans to ban PTV from being retransmitted in India.

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