STAR switched off its bouquet of channels on the Manthan network late on Friday evening, citing “huge outstandings” by the service provider. According to market sources, the blackout affected around 1.5-1.75 lakh cable homes in and around the city, even as the chastised multi-system operator (MSO) claimed a larger penetration.
The Murdoch-stable broadcaster, which maintained there were unpaid dues “outside the agreed credit period of 60 days”, ran a ticker on its driver channel STAR Plus on Thursday night, singling out Manthan as a “defaulter” and warning viewers on that network of an imminent blackout. Parleys between Manthan directors and STAR's city officials on Friday failed to reach a reconciliation and the channels were taken off air later in the evening.
“We have repeatedly told them to settle their dues, but to no avail, leaving us with no other option but to switch the signal off,” a top STAR official told Metro from Mumbai. The Manthan management, which had blanked the video feed on the STAR channels to control damage once the “dues” ticker appeared on screen late on Thursday evening, has termed the switch-off as “highhandedness” on the part of the broadcaster.
“We don't agree with the amount they have slapped on us as outstandings. Still, we told them we are ready to pay the entire sum by early next week. But they wanted the payment by 8 pm on Friday,” said Manthan director Gurmeet Singh, alleging an “RPG Netcom hand” in the switch-off drill. The RPG Group service provider has acquired distribution rights of the STAR channels in the city, effective September 1.
Netcom CEO Amit Nag, however, denied any role in the blackout. “We are not concerned with commercial terms and dealings prior to September 1. So, if the signal is discontinued, it has been done directly from the STAR headquarters in Hong Kong,” he said. But, following reports that its signal was being “illegally tapped”, RPG Netcom has been running a scroll on its network on STAR Plus, spelling out the source of the feed, with a contact number for reporting “violations”.
Sony had also temporarily switched off its bouquet of channels on the Manthan network in the recent past, citing “dues”.