The government will nationalise private cable television network operations and revive Arasu Cable TV Corporation in public interest, said Governor Surjit Singh Barnala in his customary address to the Assembly on Friday.

The Arasu Cable TV Corporation formed by the previous government had become defunct and there was an overwhelming demand from the public for its immediate revival for providing cable services at reasonable rates. “This government will revive its activities in public interest and nationalise private cable TV operations in the State without affecting the interest of the last mile local cable operators.”

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government decided to start cable operations in the State in an attempt to counter the influence of the cable network of the Maran brothers, when they fell out of favour with DMK president and then Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, in 2007.

Initially, Arasu began offering cable services in Thanjavur and Coimbatore. It was to expand operations in Chennai, Madurai and Tirunelveli by September 2008 but the corporation became defunct after the Maran brothers patched up with Mr. Karunanidhi's family late in 2008.

This will be the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government's second attempt to nationalise cable operations. In 2006, the then Jayalalithaa government had decided to take over all Multi System Operators (MSOs) that feed satellite television signals to cable operators who connect it to homes.

The AIADMK government's attempt, viewed as targeting Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), failed as Governor Surjit Singh Barnala returned the Bill.

“The government has made an announcement. The intentions are clear. The modalities will be worked out by the Cabinet shortly,” said highly placed sources.

Welcoming the decision to nationalise cable television operations, associations of cable operators were unsure if the government could take over the operations of MSOs.

“Arasu Cable TV Corporation could act as a super MSO and distribute signals through cable operator associations in the districts by retrieving control rooms taken over by SCV during the DMK rule,” says P. Sakilan, president, Thamizhaga Cable TV Operator's General Welfare Association (TCOA).

According to official sources, the Arasu Cable TV Corporation has all the necessary equipment installed in major cities but the cables laid were damaged by rival MSOs. It would have to rely on private telecom operators to roll out services immediately.

“The government will succeed only if it is able to provide signals of quality pay channels throughout the State at a reasonable rate,” said P. Sekar, co-ordinator, Federation of Cable TV Associations (South India).

Keywords: Arasu cable TV