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Cablemen in blackout cry

With all efforts to improve cash flow from the ground coming to nought, RPG Netcom — feeding nearly 75 per cent of the city’s cable homes — and its member operators are seriously considering doing away with one bouquet of pay channels to meet costs and clear outstandings.

At a meeting between Netcom officials and representatives of the Sangram Committee of Cable Operators on Tuesday, it was broadly decided that one major package had to be sacrificed to keep the others on. “With subscribers not ready to cough up more at this stage, we are left with little option but to switch off one platform,” said a south Calcutta operator.

In a last-ditch initiative, last-mile operators and the service provider will meet broadcasters’ representatives on Thursday. “If the broadcasters refuse to yield any ground, a switch-off seems the only survival tool till conditional access is rolled out. When the consumer is not willing to pay for all the signals, we can’t continue to sit on an idealistic perch,” said a Netcom official.

With STAR still sweeping the small-screen stakes by putting on beam 49 of the 50 most popular shows (as on February 7) and Sony sizzling with the red-hot men in blue, Zee-Turner has clearly been identified as the “soft target” by market forces drifting towards a switch-off. “We have conducted a market survey, which shows a Zee-Turner blackout will trigger the minimum backlash,” confirmed a pro-bandh cableman.

Not everyone is swimming with the switch-off tide, though. Akash Sutra, a cable network serving large areas along VIP Road and Jessore Road, has decided to keep all the packages on, if necessary, with rented decoders. “We are not accepting price hikes implemented after December 31, 2002, by any channel. But at old rates, no package will be dropped from our network,” said a spokesperson for the company.

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