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Pay channel hide-and-seek in Calcutta cable TV chaos

Section of subscribers forced to list options all over again

By Rith Basu in Calcutta

  • Published 11.02.19, 3:12 AM
  • Updated 11.02.19, 3:12 AM
Trai has mandated that subscribers of MSOs and DTH platforms should be able to pick and pay for only those channels that they want to watch.
Trai has mandated that subscribers of MSOs and DTH platforms should be able to pick and pay for only those channels that they want to watch. (Shutterstock)

Pay channels have started disappearing from the television screens of some cable subscribers despite complying with the Trai order that requires them to list what they want to watch from an a-la-carte list.

In some homes, two set-top boxes subscribed to the same pack are getting different combinations of channels, reflecting the cable TV industry’s struggle to address the teething troubles of the transition to a new tariff system.

Madhurilata Basu, who teaches political science in a college, said she had submitted her choice of channels to her operator a month ago but her pay channels disappeared on February 1. “Today, we were given a set of fresh forms to fill in…. Nobody seems to know what is going on,” said Basu, whose cable operator transmits TV signals from the multi-system operator GTPL-KCBPL.

Several other subscribers whom Metro spoke to on Sunday said they had been receiving the channels opted for until a few days ago but they went off air without warning. “All the pay channels then disappeared together and my local cable operator has been of little help. He tells me that the process of uploading our choice of channels to the MSO (multi-system operator) portal has been extremely slow,” a resident of Dhakuria said.

Telecom regulator Trai has mandated that subscribers of MSOs and DTH (direct-to-home) platforms should be able to pick and pay for only those channels that they want to watch.

The deadline for the new tariff system to take effect had been pushed from December 28 to January 31 because of slow and low compliance. Even after the extension, hardly 30 per cent of MSO subscribers have been shifted to the custom channel packs they have chosen.

The transition has allegedly not even started on DTH platforms in the city.

One cable operator has put a rider that bouquets of only two of the three major broadcasters — ZEE, Sony and STAR — can be chosen by a subscriber, which industry officials could not explain.

Prabir Guha Roy, a Hathway subscriber in Kasba, said he had opted for an all-HD (high definition) pack for Rs 701 and yet all his pay channels went off air last Thursday. The channels got activated the next day, only to disappear after two hours. Till late on Sunday, the channels weren’t back on his TV.

Subrata Basu, his septuagenarian neighbour, is getting different sets of channels on two TVs, although he had opted for the same HD pack. “I think Hathway and all other MSOs should have been better prepared for the transition,” he said.

A Siti Cable subscriber said the pack he had chosen includes channels like Colors and Colors Bangla but he has been getting neither.

Local cable operators said they were unable to upload channels chosen by customers because the websites of MSOs were clogged or crashing. “It is taking an eternity to upload the choices of just one subscriber. At this rate, this transition will go on forever,” an operator said.

Another operator said that some among the earliest subscribers to make the switch were being forced to list their choices all over again because of technical problems. “I have had to suffer monetary losses because of this.”

An official of an MSO admitted that the portal had become very slow because of high traffic. He claimed that the chaos and slow transition could have been avoided had the local cable operators started the process of distributing and collecting subscription forms earlier instead of resisting the rollout.

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