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Casbaa urges action on Hong Kong pay-TV theft

MUMBAI: The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) says it is time for the Hong Kong government to address the issue of criminalisation of the domestic use of unauthorized pay-TV decoders in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

The pay-TV piracy, which is part of the Casbaa agenda as the problem has escalated in the jurisdictions of Hong Kong, it notes.

Casbaa estimates that pay-TV signal theft in Hong Kong cost HK$195 million last year. There is also a cost to the government in uncollected license fees and taxes, it says.

According to an official release, the association, which represents all of Hong Kong’s pay-TV operators as well as the regional pay-TV channels, notes that recent reports of the “cracking” of the encryption codes of Hong Kong pay-TV operator i-Cable only highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach to pay-TV signal theft, including technical solutions, legal remedies and public education.

CASBAA chairman Marcel Fenez says, “We recognise that there will always be battles to stay ahead of the technology curve. The pay-TV industry regularly adopts new technical solutions to piracy as a matter of practice.”

“Investment in the latest encryption technology is just a part of the cost of doing business, ” he adds.

However, the pay-TV industry and the community at large also need the support of regulators and enforcement agencies if the media industry is to continue to thrive in Hong Kong. “Technical solutions cannot stand alone,” says Fenez.

“The pro-active enforcement of criminal controls on traders in illegal equipment -- plus the introduction of criminal sanctions for the domestic usage of unauthorised pay-TV decoders – should now be a priority for Hong Kong,” he adds.

Casbaa notes that criminal sanctions for domestic pay-TV signal theft are in place in many jurisdictions, including Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and the United States.

Casbaa believes that clearly identifying end-user piracy as a criminal offence will significantly reduce demand for unauthorised pay-TV distribution within Hong Kong, thus making the development and sales of illegal decoders a less attractive proposition for those involved in criminal activities.

“It’s time for Hong Kong to face up to this issue,” adds Fenez. “Unless it does so, our industry and the HKSAR’s reputation as a respected regional media hub will suffer further damage.”

Casbaa also believes the Hong Kong government needs to eliminate any gray areas with regards to pay-TV piracy that do not draw a clear distinction between what is the legally permitted distribution of pay-TV services and what is not.

According to Casbaa, another outstanding issue of significant concern in Hong Kong is the continued distribution of unauthorised pay-TV signals in public venues such as clubs and pubs.

“As with the tolerance of domestic pay-TV signal theft, the public venue issue sends very negative signals to consumers, damages the media investment climate and undermines the creation of compelling TV content,” said Fenez.

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