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Mumbai’s cable TV operators battle on Maharashtra entertainment tax

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MUMBAI: There’s a battle royale brewing in India’s entertainment and commercial capital Mumbai. On one side is the Cable Operators’ & Distributors Association (CODA) led by its president Anil Parab. On the other side is the Maharashtra government.

Parab has threatened to switch off all news channels – including Marathi, English and Hindi - when the Maharashtra assembly convenes for its Monsoon session starting 15 July. What’s bugging cable operators is the entertainment tax that is levied by the Maharashtra government.

“At Rs 45 per subscriber, it is too high,” says InCable managing director Ravi Mansukhani.

Parab says that this should be brought down to Rs 15 per set top box or subscriber. “We had agreed to the government’s demand to take it up to Rs 45 from Rs 30 per subscriber earlier because they said cable TV subscriber connectivity declaration was at 30 per cent at that time. Now with digitisation coming in and declarations going up to 100 per cent we believe the tax should go down. Not only will the government’s entertainment tax collections go up, it will also be fair to the cable TV community.”

Entertainment tax in Delhi is Rs 20, while in others it is zero and yet others keep it in the five per cent to six per cent range. Estimates are that the government has collected around Rs 3.34 crore in entertainment tax from the cable TV operators this year.

Parab, a legislator and lawyer himself, says he had even met up with deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on the same earlier, and has asked for a meeting with Maharashtra revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat this week. “I hope to get a positive response. If we don’t then the news channel blackout will spread to the rest of Maharashtra too as I have been getting calls from those in the interiors too expressing their support.”

Parab is quite clear none of the channels will be spared, not even Doordarshan. “We will go all the way,” says he.

Indeed. Are those in the corridors of power in Maharashtra listening?

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