Indian channel ban: Pak cable operators threaten to black out local channels

MUMBAI: The Pakistan cable operators are threatening to black out their national channels in protest against the government ban on Indian television channels.

"We are saying so because of repeated demands by our clients to air Indian and other international channels," IANS has quoted Cable-Operators Association of Pakistan (CAP) vice chairman Khaled Chaudhry as saying.

Pakistan last month banned about 35 entertainment channels, among which 14 are Indian, including Sony Entertainment Television India and Star Plus. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) justified the decision saying it was a move to regulate satellite broadcasting in the country, Daily Times reported.

The ban on Indian news channels has been in place ever since the Kargil war. Having already banned Indian channels, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) recently issued a warning to cable operators not to air Indian and other illegal channels.

Now what has irked CAP is the fact that, cable operators who are not listed with Pemra have been allegedly airing the banned channels. Some Indian channels, Star Plus in particular, are the main source of revenues for the Pak cable operators.

The IANS report also quotes a Pemra official as saying that, "We are also under tremendous pressure by Pakistani channels, which are our licensees, not to allow the Indian channels. According to the source, private channels like ARY, owned by an influential business house in Dubai, the GEO channel owned by Jang Group and others have asked Pemra to block Indian channels."

Cable operators in Pakistan have hinted the possibility of completely blacking out Pakistani channels, if the government failed to lift the ban on Indian channels soon.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) last month, banned 35 foreign TV channels - many of which are Indian - in a move to regulate satellite broadcasting in the country, Daily Times reported.

Vice-Chairman of Cable-Operators Association of Pakistan (CAP), Khalid Arain, said: ?We have informed the government that we won?t wait longer than a month to see if the ban is lifted otherwise we?ll take extreme action.

?We may stop showing Pakistani and other entertainment channels if the ban is not lifted.?

Cable operators said they would wait for at least two more weeks to see if the issue would be settled.

They said that they have suffered losses due to the ban as a majority of their clientele is addicted to the Indian channels and have withdrawn their subscriptions. 

?In just a little over three weeks since the ban was imposed our revenues have dropped 50 percent,? Mr Arain said.

The curbs were initially introduced by the government after a standoff in the relations between the neighbouring countries experienced four years ago.

This would be the second time that cable operators would stop showing Pakistani channels in protest.

In early 2003, cable operators temporarily boycotted telecasting CNN, BBC and Pakistani channels, ARY, Geo and Indus News as a protest against Pemra?s policies.

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