Television

Tamil Nadu government move 'politically motivated'

NEW DELHI: Multi-system operators (MSOs) Sumangali Cable Vision, part of Sun TV Network Pvt Ltd, and Hathway, target of state government ire, feel that the proposed takeover move is politically motivated that will not stand the legal test.

“It’s a false alarm. The governor and the state assembly are unlikely to back the chief minister’s move,” a source close to Sun TV, promoted by the Maran family, told Indiantelevision.com today.

The source added that film actress-turned-politician chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha, is trying to settle political issues by “encroaching on matters that are prerogative of the central government.”

The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday introduced legislation in the state assembly that gives it powers to acquire and take over bigger cable TV networks in the state, including multi-service operators (MSOs) and optical transport systems.

However, cable networks in India are guided by the Cable TV (Network) Regulation Act of 1995.

Sumangali Cable is promoted by the Maran family where Kalanithi looks after the media business, while brother, Dayanidhi, is the telecommunication minister in the Union Cabinet. Hathway, 26 per cent owned by Star, is controlled by the Mumbai-based Rajan Raheja group.

The bill, which political observers feel is an attempt to settle political scores, states, "This Act on the appointed date, will apply to the activities of Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) having its offices... and Hathway..."

This is, however, not the first time that the Jayalalitha government has tried to gag broadcasting business in the state, dominated by Sun. In the early part of the decade, she had attempted a similar legislation that had failed to find support from other political parties.

The source, whose is considered close to the promoter Maran family, indicated that because an uplink application of Jaya TV (backed by associates of Jayalalitha) seeking to start a news channel is pending with the communication ministry, the chief minister is “applying unnecessary pressure.”

Jayalalitha’s AIADMK and the DMK party, whose nominee Dayanidhi is in India’s federal Cabinet, have a history of face-offs with each trying to score political points when in power in Tamil Nadu. Saturday’s proposed legislation is another move in the chess game.

Among the reasons cited by the Jayalalitha government for taking over big cable networks, after paying compensation to the companies concerned, is that it has received "numerous" complaints on the failure of the networks in providing proper facilities and collection of "prohibitive" charges for the packages of pay channels, "disrupting proper telecast of certain channels" and "selective blurring of certain channels."

The legislation, which has to get the governor’s assent too, alludes to "coercion often being resorted to by distributors and operators (of TV channels)."

Clarifying the position of the telecommunications ministry on Jaya TV’s application for uplink, a ministry official said that the proposal is being examined by the law ministry on a request from information and broadcasting ministry, the nodal agency for media-related issues.

Hathway, however, has preferred to officially keep mum, though taking legal recourse by the affected MSOs are a possibility.

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