Asianet charges Trai violation in Zee-Turner switch off

BANGALORE: Asianet Satellite Communications, the largest cable service provider in Kerala, has accused Zee-Turner of illegally switching off signals without giving prior notice, thereby violating the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) recently issued inter-connect regulations.

"We have got no notice from Zee-Turner. This is in violation of the Trai regulation," says Asianet Satellite Communications senior vice-president Mahesh Kumar. For disconnection of services due to non payment of dues, broadcasters are required to give a month's notice and advertise in at least two local newspapers. Broadcasters can also switch off services due to piracy of signals with a two-day notice, according to the regulation.

Zee-Turner chief executive officer Siddharth Jain, however, refutes such charges. "Since we have no agreement in place with Asianet, we are within regulatory norms to switch off signals to them with a three-day notice. We haven't violated anything," he says.

While Jain says Asianet owes Rs 30 million, the MSO (Multi System Operator) claims the outstanding amount is Rs 15 million. "There is erroneous billing. Besides, we have already paid Rs 40 lakh on 15 December. It is a normal outstanding amount, as in any business," says Kumar. Asianet is the sister concern of Hathway promoted by Rajan Raheja.

Zee-Turner has also been asking for an increase in declaration of paid-subscribers from 1 January 2005, following the expiry of the annual contract. Besides, Zee, says Kumar, was insisting on taking the new bouquet comprising HBO, Pogo, Zee Biz, VH1 and the would-be launched CNBC-TV18 Hindi channel at a price of Rs 25 (maximum retail price is Rs 40). The standalone price for HBO is Rs 25 a month per subscriber.

"The old Zee-Turner bouquet alone would cost Rs 10 million a month. This will be unreasonable because we can't charge our subscribers that high," says Kumar.

ESPN Star Sports is still out of the Asianet network. "Our outgo to ESPN Star Sports for the one year period since 1 December 2003 is over Rs 100 million," says Kumar.

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