MSOs cut pay channels to force compliance

Most subscribers are yet to indicate their choice of pay channels

By Rith Basu in Calcutta
  • Published 6.02.19, 2:36 AM
  • Updated 6.02.19, 2:36 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Multi-system operator Hathway started blanking out pay channels late on Monday for subscribers who till then had not submitted their viewing choices as mandated by telecom regulator Trai. Shutterstock

Multi-system operator Hathway started blanking out pay channels late on Monday for subscribers who till then had not submitted their viewing choices as mandated by telecom regulator Trai, which earlier in the day stopped another service provider from doing likewise.

Sakira Ahmed, a resident of Ekbalpore, was watching a soap on a pay channel when the screen went blank. She realised that Hathway had pulled the plug on all her pay channels after surfing through the menu.

Soumen Mitra returned from work on Tuesday evening to find that there was nothing on TV that he wanted to watch.

“All my pay channels were gone,” said the resident of Ruby Park, Kasba. “I visited my cable operator’s office immediately because I do not want to miss Wednesday’s T20 between India and New Zealand. The office was packed with people when I reached there. I filled in a form and chose a set of channels, although the cable operator couldn’t say when it would be activated.”

Siti Cable, the multi-system operator that caters to almost half the cable TV subscribers in Calcutta, had planned to do what Hathway did before Trai stepped in.

Representatives of Siti Cable had been called to Trai’s regional office on Central Avenue and told that the telecom regulator “would not like to receive complaints from subscribers regarding inconvenience in the migration process”.

Suresh Suthia, director of Siti Cable, said subscribers who had not transitioned to the new tariff system would be shifted to the free-to-air bouquet along with a set of pay channels that cost roughly the price of their current packages.

Trai has made it mandatory for all multi-system and direct-to-home (DTH) operators to implement an a-la-carte tariff system so that subscribers pay for only what they want to watch. But compliance by subscribers and cable operators has been low.

The original deadline of December 28, 2018, for the transition had to be pushed to January 31. Calcutta High Court had clamped an interim stay on the Trai order till February 18, only to lift it after the telecom regulator filed a plea. The court granted a grace period of eight days to local cable operators in Bengal to sign revenue-sharing deals with their respective multi-system operators and complete the migration of subscribers to the new system without inconveniencing them.

Souvik Das, advisor to Trai’s regional office, said he was unaware of pay channels being cut for non-compliance but admitted that such measures were necessary to speed up the inevitable switchover. “Some measures have to be taken to expedite this. The transition process cannot go on forever.”

A Hathway official said the company was focusing on uploading the data submitted by subscribers to the central server. “If the pay channels of some subscribers have been switched off, they can visit their local cable operators or directly select what they want to watch on our portal.”

Since the prices of some channels are now higher, cable operators said subscribers should expect fewer viewing options for the price they used to pay.