DTH bidding row: Cable operators go on strike

Published: November 22, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Despite the finance minister’s assurances, the majority of cable operators in Pakistan shut down their services indefinitely on Monday to protest government plans to launch Direct-to-Home (DTH) television services in the country.

“We have taken this step after the finance minister refused to delay the [DTH licence] bidding process,” Cable Operators Association President Sohail Iqbal told The Express Tribune. He said they did everything they could to push the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to delay the bidding, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

“We knew one day we would have to close down our businesses therefore it is better to do it from today [Monday],” Iqbal said. “We have decided to go on strike and shut down our business before Pemra does by issuing DTH licences on November 23,” he added.

Iqbal said most cable operators had agreed to go on strike, but a few had refused to shut down their services.

Earlier on November 15, Cable Operators Association Chairman Khalid Arain said the launch of DTH was not justified since cable operators had invested billions of rupees in converting the analogue cable system into the digital one. “It will ruin their businesses and cause a huge economic loss,” he had said.

According to Arain, cable operators need at least three years to create awareness among the people about cable digitalisation. The introduction of DTH will not provide us the opportunity to promote it, he claimed.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a Pemra spokesperson said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in meetings with the cable operators on November 19 and 20 assured them DTH services would not be launched until November 1, 2017. However, Dar did not agree over delaying the bidding process.

The Pemra spokesperson claimed that cable operators had agreed with Dar but decided to go on strike anyway. “It’s a tactic to pressurise the government, which is clear exploitation,” he said. The spokesperson added that Pemra’s doors would always remain open for negotiations.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2016.

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