As people gear up for the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup, Indore-based multi system operators (MSOs) are busy packaging an array of sports channels to cash in on the cricket fever this season.
Since the broadcasting rights of the World Cup are held by for the Star TV Network, the MSOs have wisely excluded the sports channels from the basic packs and are compelling consumers to shell out more money to catch the high-voltage matches.
The same is the case with big players such as Airtel, Videocon, Tata Sky and Big TV. The broadcasters claim they provide more than 100 channels at a minimum cost, but this package excludes popular sports.
There are about 5-5.25 lakh digital cable connections in Indore, of which about 1.5-1.75 lakh consists of direct broadcasters. The rest is divided among local MCOs. Recently, MCOs Hathway, UCN and Siti Cable stopped broadcasting many channels, including all sports channels (except DD Sports), English movie channels and many others.
Rajat Agrawal, a cricket aficionado, says: "This practice is sheer exploitation. On one hand, we are compelled to pay for what we do not want to watch, and on the other, we have to pay an additional sum for the desired channels."
Most of the channels listed in the basic packages are regional ones and free-to-air channels, which are available for DD Direct Plus consumers by default.
“Then what are they charging for,” asked another consumer, vexed of watching daily soap operas, instead of sports, on television. He rued: “Cricket is a religion in our country and the very sport is being used as a way to exploit consumers.”
Rahul Rawat, a local cable operator, blames broadcasting companies and MSOs for the “unethical practice” and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for drafting broadcast regulations that favour big business outlets instead of the aam aadmi.
“The consumer is unable to choose what he wants and what he does not. Many are switching to big broadcasting companies, but in the process do not realise that they are surrendering themselves to the monopolistic game of these big players,” he adds.