Cable TV

Cable trade resorting to unfair practices: Chennai's consumer activists

CHENNAI: The battle for supremacy seems to be taking ugly turns in the capital of Tamil Nadu, one the metropolitan cities where conditional access system will be implemented post 14 July 2003.

A report in The Hindu newspaper dated 20 May 2003 states that notices were distributed to subscribers through newspaper hawkers urging consumers to demand a specific group of channels. The notices exhorted viewers to refuse to pay their cable operator or change the operators if KTV, Sun News, Gemini and Teja channels were not made available.

The notices targetted the Rajan Raheja owned multi-system operator (MSO) Hathway Cable and Datacom (in which Star India has a 26 per cent stake) and some cable operators who were illegally showing new movies.

The report quoted office bearers of the Consumer Association of India (CAI) as saying that the "vested interests in the cable trade were trying to mimic the consumer organisations in order to further their own business objectives". CAI officials also claimed that certain "fictitious" consumer organisation had placed advertisements in local dailies in certain areas of the city in an attempt to sway consumers. The CAI officials decried such moves.

It is important to note that consumers are demanding a discount for the month of April when Star channels were off air in many parts of the city - those which are being serviced by the Sun TV owned MSO Sumangali Cable Vision. The Hindu report also states that neither MSO was willing to come out with a report on the issue.

The report adds that many consumers in the city had been rejecting cable TV service altogether. While speaking to the indiantelevision.com team in Mumbai on 20 May 2003, Hathway Cable and Datacom vice president Neeraj Bhatia also said that industry reports indicated that that Kolkata and Chennai might require relatively lesser boxes because the FTA channels (Doordarshan and Eenadu TV) 'seemed' to be more popular amongst the viewers of television in those cities vis-a-vis Mumbai and Delhi.

"What has come as a blow to Chennai cable TV subscribers is the silence maintained by the state government and the police officials to blatant attempts at intimidating consumers into paying higher monthly charges" questions the report. Apt point considering the fact the ruling party has a strong connection with a certain channel!

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