Mumbai cable ops present memo to Star, Sony

MUMBAI: The Mumbai Cable Operators' Federation (MCOF) is getting active, following the announcement of its formation in the city on 13 February. (see Mumbai's small cable ops raise cudgels against MSOs, pay channels).

A delegation consisting of 60 members of the MCOF visited Star India and Sony Entertainment offices in Mumbai and handed over a memorandum on the afternoon of Valentine's Day. And no, it wasn't a love letter, rather it was a note stating a charter of their demands, which they had disclosed to the media on 13 February. Topping this list are: broadcasters should deal with the small cable ops, and carriage fees charged by the various broadcasting networks should be chopped to "affordable levels."

The members of the MCOF who visited the broadcasters' offices today stated that Star India officials accepted the memorandum and assured the delegation that their legal team would look into the various aspects and revert to the MCOF.

A spokesperson for Star India confirmed the visit by the MCOF, adding that the network had already reduced rates for its bouquet by 25 per cent in the interests of the consumer. "In fact, we have already been in discussions with cable operators most of whom have signed on to our new package," he said.

The MCOF also obtained an assurance from Sony officials who stated that the issue would only be sorted out next week as the senior Sony TV officials were abroad currently.

The MCOF members had taken a stand that they would individually switch of the pay channels on their networks as they were charging exorbitant rates. But then they decided it against it, choosing to instead wait until the ICC World Cup ended since they didn't want viewers to suffer.

However, the MCOF, changed its stand on 14 February saying that its members wouldn't wait till 23 March 2003 (the last day of the ICC World Cup 2003). They are planning to initiate the boycott as soon as possible and switch off the signals of the pay channels.

This followed the warning that local politician, the BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, had issued to cable operators that he would take action against all those individuals who charge consumers more than Rs 150 per month. Somaiya has called for a press conference on 15 February 2003 to clarify matters about his stand on the issue of overcharging consumers.

An afternoon vernacular daily had also quoted Somaiya as saying that he would target the pay channels in addition to the cable operators. Somaiya's office declined to offer any more information saying that he would address the media on 15 February 2003.

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