afaqs! news bureau

Media Pro demands subscription charges from MCOA; cable operators refuse to pay

About 400 cable homes in Kerala are not receiving Asianet channels over subscription charges payment issue. For the record, the Kerala TV market houses 3000-4000 cable homes.

Media Pro demands subscription charges from MCOA; cable operators refuse to pay
Media Pro demands subscription charges from MCOA; cable operators refuse to pay
There is a huge confusion playing ground in the Kerala TV market. Media Pro, a 50:50 joint venture (JV) between Zee Turner and STAR-DEN Media Services, claims that the Asianet channels (Asianet, Asianet Plus and Asianet News) are pay channels, while MCOA (Media And Cable Operators Association), which constitutes 10 per cent of the total cable homes, still believes that these channels are free-to-air (FTA).

The issue arose due to the mistake in TRAI's regulation on its website, which listed Asianet as an FTA channel. The MCOA is one of the many cable operator associations in Kerala which covers the markets including Thiruvananthapuram, Arnagluman, Kannur and Trichur, among others.

Media Pro claims that the MCOA has not paid the subscription fees for the Asianet channels for the past 18 months.

The company mentions that letters have been sent to the TRAI to make necessary changes on its website to reflect the correct position and that the TRAI has clarified the same shall be done shortly. However, cable operators under the Den Network claim that they were never informed that the channel had turned a pay channel.

Further, in retaliation to the public notice sent by Media Pro to the Den Network cable operators, MCOA has displaced Asianet channel and has removed the Asianet Plus channel from the analog line.

Media Pro's take on the issue

In an official communiqué, a senior official from Media Pro states, "Taking advantage of a technical error that has occurred on the TRAI website, which has inadvertently not mentioned the name of "Asianet" channel in the list of channels distributed by Media Pro in the rate card published by the TRAI on May 23, 2012, MCOA is creating confusion by making false statements to the operators and viewers that the channel has become an FTA channel. The sudden displacement of the channel also violates the TRAI regulations, which requires the operators to inform the viewers by way of a three-week public notice before removing any channel from its network."

"The operators had signed subscription agreements for both Asianet and Asianet Plus channels, which have now expired and we have been negotiating with the operators for renewal of the same for some time now. We will try our best to eradicate the problems; we are continuously running the on screen displays across our networks to inform the viewers regarding non-payment of outstanding dues by the concerned operators. Our main aim is to provide quality content to our viewers," he adds.

Asianet has been a pay channel since January 30, 2010 and this has been categorically informed to all viewers by the Broadcasters Asianet Communications Limited (ACL) via a public notice dated December 29, 2009, as per the TRAI regulations.

MCOA refusal

However, MCOA has a different view altogether. One of the sources also mentions that the total amount which is in question is close to Rs 2-3 crore.

Anil Kumar, general secretary, MCOA, says, "Asianet or Media Pro have never tried to approach us with any of the confusions. We still don't know if Asianet is a pay channel or an FTA. They have not spoken to our association. As per the TRAI website, for the non-CAS area, Asianet Plus is not a pay channel. They have never shown us any documents to confirm that the channel has turned a pay channel. The customers are not paying us anything. We are not charging for the channel. Den Networks being a partner in the distribution company, we expected it to negotiate with the channel on our behalf. But Den is not initiating any settlement."

He adds that the cable operators have also filed an RTI with TRAI to find out the exact situation.

Third eye view

While when afaqs! tried to explore the matter from a third party point of view, another cable operator's association, KCCL (Kerala Communicators Cable), it was learnt that a very minor part of the state has witnessed the black-out and that most of the cable operators are not participating.

Govindan, general secretary, KCCL, says, "Asianet is a pay channel since one and a half years. We already had a discussion with the channel at the time of conversion from FTA to pay. We are earning basic revenue from the customers, but there are a bunch of operators who are participating in this agitation and have got a large amount as outstanding with the channel. They have to clear the dues of the channel."

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