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Talks, not threats, to mop up cable dues

Even as pay channels are on a mop-up overdrive and outstandings from the ground have touched alarming proportions, multi-system operators (MSOs) in the city are wary of antagonising defaulters during the run-in to the conditional access system (CAS).

Both RPG Netcom, which feeds around 70 per cent of Calcutta’s cable homes, and SitiCable are loathe to employ strong-arm tactics to recover dues. At stake is crucial connectivity that would drive seeding of boxes and post-CAS business.

“We know there are unpaid dues and flow from the ground has to improve for a smooth rollout of CAS. However, switching off an operator to extract arrears is not our cup of tea. We would rather find an intelligent solution through dialogue,” RPG Netcom CEO Amit Nag told Metro on Monday.

Netcom, which saw 44 operators “defecting” to fellow service provider Manthan, leaving behind outstandings of close to Rs 2.5 crore, claimed 12 have already returned to its fold.

“We went to them with the message of trust and long-term gains, since we want to support all the stakeholders in this industry. We are confident others will also see reason and come back,” Nag added.

SitiCable's Calcutta chief Soumen Roychowdhury, while agreeing with Nag that a tough stance at this point could prove counter-productive, felt pay channels should share the onus of recovering dues from the ground. “Broadcasters should ensure dues are settled before an operator leaves one MSO for another,” he said.

Netcom and Siti officials, both concerned at the exodus of defaulters, met recently to set a joint damage-control initiative rolling. It is learnt that both service providers extended a commitment to each other that they won't “accommodate” mutual defaulters.

“We spoke about ethical business practices and pro-active service to gain the confidence of operators. We hope to meet the Manthan directors soon with the same agenda, since we believe there is room for all to grow together,” said Nag.

Meanwhile, representatives of the master control rooms in the city have come together under the United Forum of Cable Operators (Calcutta Metropolitan Area), to “ensure smooth cash flow in the post-CAS era”. The forum has appealed to pay channels not to provide signal to “defaulting and defecting” operators.

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