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Jaya to gobble up cable web

The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday introduced a bill in the assembly to take over the cable TV distribution of two major multi-system operators (MSOs) in the state ? a move aimed at ending the monopoly DMK chief Karunanidhi?s family has over the network.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2006 02:18 IST

The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday introduced a bill in the assembly to take over the cable TV distribution of two major multi-system operators (MSOs) in the state — a move aimed at ending the monopoly DMK chief Karunanidhi’s family has over the network.

A takeover would mean disaster for SCV, which is owned by Union communications minister Dayanidhi Maran’s family and has 100 per cent control over cable distribution in Tiruchy, Madurai and Coimbatore and 85 per cent in Chennai. Hathway, the other operator, is owned by the Rahejas and it has a small footprint in Chennai. The operations of these two MSOs in other parts of the state would also come under the purview of the bill. The bill, however, does not say anything about other MSOs in smaller towns, especially those the Sun TV group took over recently.

Stunned by the government's move, Karunanidhi and Dayanidhi met the governor and urged him not to give his assent to the bill once it was passed in the House. They said the bill was illegal, as only the Centre had the authority to pass laws regulating cable TV.

The bill seeks to take over the assets and services of the two companies and clearly mentions their names in Schedule II. The reasons given for the takeover are collection of excessive charges, especially for packaged channels, disruption and blurring of certain channels and coercion of operators. The bill, however, does not cover street-level operators, who form the final link with TV viewers.

The government says its executive functions cover not only matters governed by Articles 162 and 298 but also adopting the same for the welfare of people. The bill comes at a time when Jaya TV is fighting a court battle with the communications ministry to procure uplinking licence for a 24-hour news channel to be launched before the elections.