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RPG Netcom, the multi-system operator (MSO) feeding the majority of Calcutta’s cable homes, has dismissed as “baseless” allegations of under-declaration, among other charges levelled against it by a section of cable operators.
“There is absolutely no substance in their claim. We have one of the most meticulous billing systems in the country, which is vetted by all the major broadcasters. Each and every operator is listed, along with his number of connections, and all broadcasters get copies of this statement. The system is completely transparent and each side can call up the other and run a check,” RPG Netcom CEO Ashim Dutta told Metro on Tuesday evening.
Dutta was reacting to an “unsigned memorandum” submitted by a group of operators who demonstrated in front of the MSO’s office in Chandni Chowk during the day. Around 600 operators, mostly from cable networks in Howrah, Hooghly and North 24-Parganas, had come together under the banner of a nascent body, christened the United Front of Cable Operators.
“The operators have always lived with the stigma of under-declaration and we have been facing consumer flak because of this perception. RPG Netcom is largely responsible for souring consumer-operator relations, since it doesn’t pass on revenue for all the points it collects from the ground,” alleged Tarak Saha, general secretary, Forum of Cable Operators, speaking on behalf of the new unit.
Among the other grievances aired against RPG Netcom are “poor quality of signal”, “higher rates” and “arbitrary allocation of channels”. Saha said: “There is no reason why Netcom should be charging nearly Rs 50 more than other MSOs.”
Dutta clarified that there has been no increase in service charge or connectivity for RPG Netcom in the last 18 months. “We still get paid service charge for less than 1.5 lakh households, when more than eight lakh homes receive our signal, and a strong channel like ESPN takes home the moolah for 2.3 lakh points,” he said.
The MSO denied that there was a Rs-50 gap in bouquet rates. “At best, the difference will be Rs 10-12, which could be because new deals with STAR and Zee are already effective on our network and since our quality of signal is definitely superior,” said an RPG Netcom official.
However, it is unlikely that the disgruntled cablemen, pushed to the brink by shrinking margins, will relent easily. “We might observe a black day on November 12 to protest RPG Netcom’s highhandedness,” said Saha.