Cable TV

Cable operators black out Star chnls in Kolkata

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MUMBAI: A majority of cable networks in Kolkata have blacked out the Star group of channels, protesting against a seven per cent rate hike. Another contention is the forcing of the second bouquet which includes channels like Star One.

The Star channels including Star Plus are not available to most viewers in the city since Saturday midnight. The decision was taken by the last mile operators (LMOs) who also blamed Tata Sky, in which Star is a 20 per cent joint venture partner, for approaching housing societies with the offer of a central dish antenna through which individual installations could be provided for direct-to-home (DTH) service.

Indian Cable Net (which was bought out by Siticable) and Manthan Cable Network, the two big multi-system operators (MSOs) in the city, are not having the Star channels on their cable systems. "We were asked by the last mile operators not to carry the Star channels," says an executive in Indian Cable Net.

Earlier, Star had switched off signals to Manthan after claiming outstandings of over Rs 20 million. "Manthan owed us money and we switched off signals on 15 March after giving a month's notice. There is no reason for the other cable operators blacking us out as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has allowed a seven per cent hike," says a Star India spokesperson.

Manthan director Gurmeet Singh admits Star was off the network from 15 March, but says the case regarding dues is pending in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The protest against carriage of the Star channels was led by the Forum of Cable Operators and Cable Operators Sanjukta, two association bodies of the last mile operators in the city. "Star was asking for a hike, which we couldn't have passed on to the consumers. Besides, Tata Sky, where Star is a partner, is wanting to grab subscribers by offering housing societies free cabling from a single central antenna," says Cable Operators Sanjukta spokesperson Papi Banerjee.

Star channels are, however, available on Cablecom and Purvalaya Communications. "Star is also supporting some operators by issuing decoder boxes," says a last mile operator in Kolkata.

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