Cable TV

Fragmented cable ops threaten blackout

NEW DELHI: A section of cable operators (mostly comprising independent operators) are not a happy lot after the finance ministry proposed the costing of Rs 45.90 for the basic tier of free to air channels in a post-conditional access regime.

They are thinking of venting their grouse by blacking out cable services for a day in the four metros where CAS is being sought to be implemented.

The threatened blackout, however, would be after the March 27 meeting of the government-sponsored task force on CAS. Interestingly, another section of cable ops, said to be close to some big MSOs, has "rejected" the idea of a token blackout saying it was "not the way to fight or protest the task force's moves on costing of the basic tier."

Cable Network's Association general secretary and an independent cable op Rakesh Dutta, while participating in a meeting that 100-odd cable ops had on the issue in Delhi, told indiantelevision.com: "We are planning a strategy to get across the cable operators' viewpoint to the people and others too and would resort to a token black out of cable services,". Dutta, incidentally, is also a task force member.

"If the government does not listen to our viewpoint (on the low costing of the basic tier), then we'd have no option but to black out cable services," he explained, adding that a memorandum in this regard would be given to the information and broadcasting ministry soon.

Another operator Roop Sharma said, "the proposed rate of the FTA channels is not acceptable to us. We have to decide on a future course ofaction."

But, when asked about the meeting and the proposed blackout, Dr A K Rastogi, an independent and highly active cable op of Delhi, who also runs a cable magaizne Avishkar, said, "By resorting to a token strike, the cable operators would play into the hands of the broadcasters as such a move would also turn consumer activists against cable operators."

Though Rastogi agreed that the costing being arrived at by the finance ministry is "too low," he pointed out, "there are other ways to neutralise such moves and that should be done through the task force itself and the government should be educated that the parameters of their costing is wrong."

Now, people like Dutta and Rastogi, successful cable ops in their own right, represent the two spectrum of thecable fraternity that is perennially divided and seldom seem to have consensus on an issue--- a factor that is exploited by other stakeholders of the broadcasting and cable industry fully.

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