Udaya issue: Final solution yet to emerge

BANGALORE: The Bangalore-based Karnataka State TV Operators Association (KSCOA), supported by the affiliated associations, has been protesting the highly popular Kannada Udaya channel along with Udaya News and Ushe that have turned to pay mode on 1 August 2004.

The cable operators are using the state language as the main contentious issue.

Probing into the matter has brought out many chinks in the operators' armour. Most of the operators are fighting Udaya on the issue of non-operators being used to bring the operators to toe the line and declarations and not the emotional state language issue and here-in lies the crux of the problem for the KSCOA.

"Even national broadcasters such as Sony and Star send their own teams to each district to study the ground realities when they increase subscriptions or go into pay mode. They have a meeting with major operators in a district, along with the distributors. In case of any dispute in the declarations figure, the matter is generally sorted out by the broadcasters team, while, in Udaya's case, (the distributors have reportedly spent around Rs1million each) this discretion lies with the distributor, who to recover their investments and to earn a better revenue (5 per cent of the monthly collection is the alleged figure) force the cable operator to declare and pay for a higher number of connections than is feasible."

"Udaya's own teams have visited hardly any district to assess the ground realities, they are relying only on their distributors. In one major town where Udaya directly settled for a figure of 8,000 declarations, as distributors in another similar town want the operator to declare 20,000 connections," alleged a cable operator from the heartland of Karnataka.

"Also, to make us pay up the demanded figure, the distributor threatens to, and sometimes gives a signal through a non-operator," he adds.

To cite another example - reports from different sources in Mandya district reveal that a distributor appointed a non-operator named Wellworth who had been transmitting the Udaya signal. Result: major operators blanked out Udaya for a couple of days. Only on assurance directly from Udaya that the matter would be resolved in a couple of days did transmission recommence this evening. Reportedly, a number of non-operators have been given decoder boxes in the rural areas by Udaya distributors.

Operators who are really concerned about having to pay for Udaya say: "How can we survive? Many subscribers will refuse to pay the charges, saying that they were not interested in many of the pay channels. As it is, Sony has already asked to pay more for the two months when they will be broadcasting the ICC championship and the tri-nation cup in Holland - the subscriber will not pay extra money for two months, we will have to shell out more money from our own pockets - even during the recent series in Sri Lanka we were forced to pay more to Star TV" said a cable operator.

The protest against Udaya turned violent on 19 August. Rural cable operators, backed by Kannada activists presented a memorandum against the Sun channels Udaya Bouquet turning to pay mode, to the chief minister, the deputy chief minister and other politicians who had gone to perform a pooja of the holy Cauvery river at the KRS dam near the picturesque Vrindavan gardens.

Shouting slogans against Udaya, a mob of around 150 persons prevented the local Udaya camera crew from filming the event for about 15-20 minutes. Matters were brought to normalcy when assurances by the politicians including the local actor-turned-politician Ambarish assured that matter would be sorted out in a day or two.

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