Cable TV

Bangalore Hathway loses Sony signal; moves court

BANGALORE/ MUMBAI: If the cricket season is upon us can switch-offs be far away? On the eve of the Champions Trophy, which kicks off tomorrow, Incable, the sole Bangalore distributor for Sony, has switched off the network's signal to Hathway Cable and Datacom.

Expectedly, the reasons cited are underdeclaration and arrears in payments. Hathway has filed a case in the city civil court challenging Incable's move.

Incable argues that Hathway should pay an extra amount taking into account new subscribers they got after taking over 40 cable operators from Siticable since December 2003.


Incable's Pratap Wadhwa told, "Hathway has taken over about 40 cable operators who were under Siticable earlier since December 2003. Yet it has been paying us revenue as per the old numbers, which comes around 32,500. We've requested them to pay us the charges of the 20,000 new connections they gained from Siticable, which comes around to Rs.1 million per month since January 2004. I've met them a number of times since we took over Sony distribution in June 2004, but they've refused to talk about the matter. We also have to make payments to Sony."

Wadhwa wasn't forthcoming when queried on the suit filed by Hathway. Sony officials from Bangalore and Mumbai refused to comment on the issue.

Hathway deputy general manager Suresh accused the distributor for resorting to unjustifiable methods whenever a major event approaches. He said even Sony was demanding more money since they have more content now.

"Where will we pay them Rs.1 million per month extra from? And they are forcing us to pay an extra Rs. 6 for the MTV/Nickelodean package per subscriber. How can we go to the subscriber every time a channel introduces a pay channel or increases the rates. We've asked them to get TRAI's (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) permission for this hike in revenue. Let our viewers be aware of what is happening. We have the option of DD in this case, and most of our viewers are not interested in MTV or Nikelodean if they have to pay for them," he said.

Both sides, Incable and Hathway seem to be adamant on the issue and have left it to the courts to settle this issue, at least for the present.

A number of pockets at Indiranagar, Jayanagar, Koramangala, Cook Town, Cox Town in Bangalore are serviced by Hathway's cable operators. Viewers who keenly follow cricket matches on television foresee the danger of missing the England-hosted ICC Championship Trophy, which commences on 10 September. SET Max holds the telecast rights of the tourney and a concerned viewer told that he'd not pay his monthly subscription to his cable operator if the SET Max signal was not available during the matches, even if he could see them on DD.

Meanwhile Kolkata has also been witnessing a similar tussle, but between different parties. The issue started with Zee Telefilms Ltd serving a legal notice on the RPG Group alleging that RPG's multi-system operator for Kolkata RPG Netcom has failed to pay Rs 69 million to the Zee-Turner network. The network also switched off its channels for Netcom customers.

Retaliating to the Zee's action, RPG Netcom -- distributor of Star and Sony bouquets in Kolkota -- has switched off Star and Sony channels on the network of Calcutta Communications (CalCom). Calcom belongs to the MSO SitiCable, which is owned by Zee Group. Netcom claims dues of around Rs 8 million from CalCom for the Star and Sony packages and has also alleged that CalCom hadn't been providing the correct subscriber base information.

In Indore, a local cable operator's complaint that channels including Star and Zee didn't resume feed to his network despite having received the fee has resulted in arrest warrants against Star chief Rupert Murdoch and Zee TV chairman Subhash Chandra and 19 others. The court of judicial magistrate (First Class) NP Tiwari has adjourned the hearing to 27 September.

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