Television

Bangalore cable ops-government spat hots up

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BANGALORE: Even as Bangalore had to forego its daily dose of the idiot box for the third consecutive day, the TV blackout is now threatening to spread to the rest of Karnataka.

A final decision regarding continuing the strike was still unclear at the time of posting this report, however.



Meanwhile, the ongoing squabble between Bangalore's cable fraternity and the state government run power utility Bangalore Electric Supply Company (Bescom) has heated up further. A meeting between MSOs and Bescom yesterday ended with the latter refusing a let up on its "cable cutting drive".



And there is no early resolution to the problem in sight what with a meeting with state chief minister N Dharam Singh having been postponed to Monday, a cable industry representative averred.



Bescom swung into action early this week following the tragic death on Monday of 7-year-old Anish when he came in contact with a "live" wire in Bangalore's Indiranagar II Stage.



In the wake of a public outcry about its services or rather the lack of them, the power utility company at first claimed that repairs were carried out on Monday morning in the area where Anish died. Bescom alleged that an overhanging cable TV wire was responsible for the accident and this prompted state power minister HD Revanna to initiate an inquiry into the matter and hand a "carte blanche" to the utilities company to go on a cable cutting spree even before the inquiry could begin.



Cable operators say a number of deaths take place every year due to various factors, even electrocution so why this particular event is being used to destroy their property is the question.



At the meeting with the cable operators yesterday, the only concession Revanna offered was that cables of Bangalore's seven licensed cable operators would be left alone. The minister, however, refused to stop Bescom from cutting cables belonging to unlicensed operators. Giving an indication of the government's thinking on this matter, Revanna said a Cable TV Act similar to the ones in force in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu was being considered.



Revanna then abruptly ended the meeting prompting protests from the cable company representatives. Cable operators are now threatening a state-wide cable TV blackout following the failure of the talks.



A memorandum submitted by the Association of Multi System Operators, Bangalore, to Bescom on 14 July requests the formation of a committee comprising Bescom, MSOs and public representatives to discuss any further safety measures to be implemented. The memorandum also extends support to Bescom to identify illegal and unauthorized persons, further asking the power utility company to initiate action against such miscreants who pull cables without its consent.



Cable operators say Bescom personnel are cutting cables every 60 meters or so resulting in very expensive repairs. Photographs in the media show cut cables lying haphazardly across the footpaths. A cable operator says that the Bescom personnel who come to cut the lines refuse to see the permissions, saying that they have been asked by higher ups to cut the lines or that they have to meet with a set quota of cable cutting every day. Media reports suggest that almost 70 per cent of the lines are down and the signals wouldn't reach the customers because of this.



"Repairing each splice costs us Rs.250/ to 300/-, a 36 core cable would cost about Rs 9,000 or more to repair at each cut," a cable operator points out.



"The way they (Bescom linesmen) are leaving the wires hanging loosely could pose a further a hazard," says a cable operator.



"Even if the matter is sorted out today, it would take a month or more to bring the transmission across all cable connected homes to normal," says another.



DISH TV DEMAND SHOOTS UP



If there is anyone who can claim any positives out of the present vexed situation though, it is the Zee Group's direct to home (DTH) service Dish TV. Especially with the ongoing Asia Cup cricket tournament that kicked off in Sri Lanka yesterday, harried consumers are looking Zee's DTH service as the only available option. According to Ramkumar Gopishetty, regional manager, South, New Era Entertainment Network Ltd. (Dish TV distributors), sales have picked up to the extent of almost 50 new connections per day since the cable blackout. Currently, the total Dish TV connections are around 2,500 in Bangalore and another 2,500 in the rest of Karnataka.



While Dish TV does not provide the Star, Sony or Sun Network packages, it does have ESPN Star Sports, which is telecasting the Asia Cup.

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