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In Karnataka no cable or Udaya blackout

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BANGALORE: The majority of cable operators in Karnataka are in no mood to heed either the call to ban the Sun Network's Udaya channel or even the "nationwide" strike call given yesterday by the All-India Cable TV Forum.

The Karnataka State Cable TV Operators Association (KSCOA) Bangalore representatives met with the leading MSOs in Bangalore today. On the agenda were two issues:

* The Sun Network's Udaya/Ushe bouquet having gone pay.

* The strike call givem by the All India Cable TV Forum (AICTVF).

The MSOs have refused to blank Sun's Kannada bouquet. Most MSOs say that enough notices were given to the cable operators that Udaya would turn pay. The development was not a surprise to anyone, they aver.

As for the cable strike call by the AICTVF, most MSO's this correspondent spoke to were not in support of it. The general consensus appeared to be that this "is just a drama being played by Zee to get its DTH in place. MSOs cite their experience when they blacked out all transmissions for three days in protest against the cable cutting spree carried out by power utility company BESCOM over the tragic death of a seven-year-old city boy when he came in contact with a live cable wire.

At that time DTH subscriptions had almost doubled, the sales pitch of DTH distributors was the black out being a reason to subscribe, the MSO representatives say.

"Where were they when 5 per cent service tax was implemented? And when it was enhanced to 8 per cent? Why this hue and cry over a 2 per cent increase?" argues an MSO.

"MSOs have already given a memorandum on this issue to the finance ministry, let us wait and see," says another MSO.

Sudhish Kumar of the KSCOA said that cable ops had not reacted earlier to the Udaya pay issue because they were depending on the TRAI freeze notification which was later overturned. Further comments could be made and action taken only after the meeting the Dy. CM which is expected sometime tomorrow

Countering this K Vijay Kumar, VP Udaya said it was the cable operators who had approached him two years ago, asking that the channel be turned pay. Vijay Kumar ads that it as been Udaya policies to supply the decoder boxes only to cable operators who also had signal from other pay channels.

"Not a single decoder box has been supplied to a cable operator who has only free to air channels. At present we have distributed more than 4,500 boxes at Rs 7000 each. We expect 100 per cent connectivity by Friday and our signal is being transmitted across more than 90 per cent of the state."

An MSO in a Western Karnataka district confirmed that they were transmitting Udaya. The director of the MSO said he would support the Udaya ban provided there was confirmation that the switch-off covered all of Karnataka, including Bangalore. Regarding the all-India strike call by AICTVF, the MSO representative said that no intimation had been given, except what was reported in the papers. A meeting of MSOs from the surrounding districts would be called upon to decide the matter only after an official notification was received, he said.

All the cable operators and MSOs this correspondent spoke to had one common refrain, "We cannot hold our subscribers hostage by complete or partial blanking out. We have to think of them too. We cannot go on strike for every rhyme and reason."

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