As the situation has gone from bad to worse, viewers complain of tariff anomaly and poor quality reception

After the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government assumed office in May 2011, among the many expected changes, the announcement of take over of cable TV operations in a meaningful manner by the Tamil Nadu government through the Arasu Cable TV Corporation was welcomed by tax paying public.

However, after a year, the enthusiasm and joy seem to have died down. Today, there are more grievances, complaints and allegations from television viewing public on the operation of cable TV network.

They say, “Now the situation has gone from bad to worse…At least during the DMK regime, there was quality in delivery. In case of any problems in viewing, the technical crew attended to them. Whereas now, even after a change in government, many persons with the blessings of local AIADMK functionaries have an eye on the cable TV business and are eager to make quick money rather than offer efficient service,” they charge.

Womenfolk in the city, who spoke to The Hindu, said that though Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had the good intention to cut the monthly charges to Rs 70 per connection and make it more affordable, the cable operators took double the sum (Rs 140) or even more under some pretext or the other.

In some affluent residential localities, the operators collected Rs 175 and even Rs 200 per month for each cable TV connection.

In rural areas, to name a few, like Samayanallur, Vadipatti, Alanganallur and Sholavandan, where electricity supply is mostly on switch off mode most of the days, the cable TV operators collected the same tariff as in city. This irked the public, whose economy levels were relatively low. The officials should, through media, inform the television viewers about the tariff.

Under no circumstances, the operators should be permitted to collect more than the government norms, said S. Suresh, a resident of Kanda Thevar Lane, West Masi Street.

Lack of accountability

Sharing some of their experiences and views, reliable sources in the cable TV industry, whose names are being withheld on request, justified the ‘excess’ money being collected from the public. “The Arasu Cable TV did not have all the packages from the day it took over. Hence, for providing this additional service, the viewers were charged Rs 100 to Rs 120 per month.” However, the viewers had a different tale to narrate. Lack of accountability by the Arasu Cable TV administrators had resulted in excess collection by the operators. “There seems to be no systematic check or audit to verify the number of connections and the collections.”

The operators said that for Rs 100, they provided as many as 120 to 150 channels to the viewers. “What else do the public expect from us,” they ask.

“At least, when SCV was handling the operations, the technical crew and maintenance were effective and swift. This is missing now. We (the individual operators) have to take the call and attend to faults from the customers at the earliest…” they say.

The biggest relief after the new regime took over is that the industry has been pulled out from a private group, which dominated the sector with political and muscle power.

The cable television business in Madurai had witnessed, other than business rivalry, even murder. Though it was long back, a leading operator, Gandhi of Vaigai TV, was brutally murdered by a gang. The CB-CID police solved the grave crime a couple of years ago.

With such a blood spilled background, the news that Arasu Cable TV would come to centre stage was welcomed by some genuine operators as well. However, lack of direction and accountability from the government officials in taking the industry in the right direction has slowly given room for illegal operations in small ways, genuine operators admit.

A source which has a good knowledge on the working of the cable TV segment says that many operators (small and big) fail to disclose the exact number of cable connections they provide under their network. For instance, if a cable operator has 10,000 connections, he divulges only 40 to 50 per cent to the officials and remits money (Rs 20 per connection) to that extent in the government account. This results in huge loss to the exchequer, the source claims. The top brass in the Arasu Cable should have the total number of connections district-wise and periodic monitoring/random/surprise checks alone would ensure there is no loss or room for cheating.

The source further says, “Today, even if a cable operator fails to remit the money due to the Arasu Cable, the service is not disconnected. Lack of manpower and corruption at different levels are being attributed as reasons for mismanagement.”

The government must find ways to overcome the practical difficulties experienced in the industry. It should analyse the mistakes and come out with solutions, which alone would fetch the desired results, the source asserts.

Collector’s assurance

Many viewers have registered their complaints about the cable TV through the Facebook account of Madurai Collector Anshul Mishra and submitted petitions in this regard seeking his interference. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Anshul said on Saturday that he had received petitions on the over-charging of fees from viewers. “I have asked for a comprehensive report from the officials concerned and in the event of any violation, stern action will be initiated as per law.”

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