Over 300,000 cable homes went without their favourite soaps on Tuesday after the STAR bouquet of channels was switched off on the Manthan network for the second time in two months.
STAR officials told Metro the channels were blanked out on the network at the behest of RPG Netcom, which enjoys city distribution rights for the bouquet, including the likes of STAR Plus, STAR News, STAR Movies and National Geographic Channel.
Netcom CEO Amit Nag confirmed recommending the blackout after “repeated requests for payment of dues fell on deaf ears”. Nag said the current outstanding to STAR from Manthan stood at Rs 20 lakh.
“Old outstanding bills to the broadcaster from 24 of our former operators who have migrated to Manthan add up to another Rs 78 lakh. The Manthan management has written to us that it is not liable for outstanding from the defaulters it has sheltered. This is not the way to run a business, and as the distributors, we had no option but to switch off STAR on the network,” Nag added.
Manthan director Gurmeet Singh termed the switch-off “arbitrary and grossly unfair”. He said: “We have recently paid STAR Rs 22 lakh and there is no outstanding at our end.”
SitiCable, which recently found itself at the wrong end of a migration when a group of north Calcutta operators defected to Manthan, leaving behind dues of nearly Rs 35 lakh, is not prepared to back Netcom on the STAR issue. “Netcom has sought more than 100 per cent extra connectivity for STAR from us, too. This is arm-twisting and misuse of the distribution rights,” alleged SitiCable vice-president Soumen Roy Chowdhury.