Cable TV

Dues dispute: ESS cuts Hathway feed in certain areas

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MUMBAI: It's that time of year again. When sporting action is on (in this case Euro 2004) can switch-offs be far behind

Star India associated MSO Hathway Cable & Datacom has cried foul after being switched off by sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports over what it terms are "unreasonable hikes on Hathway subscribers under the guise of non-payment of dues." Hathway has, however, asserted in an official communiqué that it has cleared its dues till June 2004.

According to the charges made by Hathway, "ESPN Star Sports have started deliberately overcharging Hathway by over billing for certain particular areas. It's evident from the fact that the channels are switched off in certain areas whereas it's on in other areas serviced by Hathway."

ESS officials, while dismissing the charges made by Hathway as misleading, have countered that signals were only cut where the MSO's affiliates' outstandings had piled up. Three Hathway affiliates in Mumbai --- Bhawani in Chembur, UCN in Worli and Liberty in Thane --- have dues pending since February, the ESS officials claimed.

The ESS signal to Hathway has been cut in parts of Nasik and Chennai as well. In Hyderabad, however, where ESS is also on the blink, officials representing the sports broadcaster lay the blame on the MSO, for "removing the smart cards".

Pune's dominant MSO, ICC Cable Network, has also had its feed cut by ESS. It needs noting here that ICC is not a Hathway affiliate. In this case, dues are pending since January, ESS claims.

Hathway, meanwhile, has termed the "act by ESPN Star Sports is a violation of the Telecom regulatory Authority of India (Trai) order that has frozen cable TV payouts with effect from 26 December 2003. The above price hike issue was brought up with Trai who concurred that such acts by the broadcasters are illegal."

According to Hathway, "ESS has asked for a hike of 24 per cent on their channels effective from this month onwards in violation the Trai order. They have also imposed other hikes under various heads like declaration, etc. due to which the effective hike goes up by an enormous 96 per cent!"

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