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State to take over cable TV network

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Cable television wires dangling from Chennai Corporation road lamp post at Thiruvanmiyur in Chennai on Monday. Photo: M. Karunakaran
Cable television wires dangling from Chennai Corporation road lamp post at Thiruvanmiyur in Chennai on Monday. Photo: M. Karunakaran

Special Correspondent

Bill introduced; will apply to activities of 'Sumangali Cable Vision' and 'Hathway'

CHENNAI: A comprehensive Bill for the State to take over the cable television network, including "multiple service optical transport systems", was introduced in the Assembly on Saturday.

The "Tamil Nadu Acquisition, Transfer and Taking Over of the Administration of Cable Television Network (Including Multiple Service Optical Transport System) Bill, 2006" would come into effect from the date to be notified by the Government.

The proposed law, on the appointed date, would apply to the activities of 'Sumangali Cable Vision', which has offices in Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchi and Coimbatore and other places, and 'Hathway' which has offices in Chennai and other places.

The Bill made it clear that acquisition and transfer of cable network would not include street-level cable operators at the tail-end distribution level providing service to the subscriber.

Numerous complaints

The Bill, moved by Law Minister D.Jayakumar, said the Government was in receipt of numerous representations complaining of the "lack of proper cable network facility, unsatisfactory manner of provision of facilities, collection of excessive and prohibitive charges, with package channels being provided under heavy payment."

There were also complaints of "disrupting proper telecast of certain channels thereby preventing the public from viewing them, selective blurring of telecast of certain channels, with threats and coercion often being resorted to by distributors and operators in the process of exhibition of telecasts," it said.

The Government, having examined the issue in depth, considered the ways and means of remedying the situation. Considering the welfare of the public, it felt the present "unsatisfactory situation" should be remedied. Justifying the move to enact the legislation, the Bill said, "the public viewing and welfare is of paramount consideration and the Government of Tamil Nadu cannot shirk its responsibility in this sphere."

The Bill categorically said that the Government or the government company should not be liable for prior liabilities. For transfer of assets to the proposed Government company, it provided for an amount to be given to the company as determined by the Commissioner of Payments. "It is hereby declared that the liabilities of the company in relation to its undertaking vested in the Government under the provisions of this Act, shall be discharged from the amounts referred above and also from the amount determined under the provisions of the Act in accordance with the rights and interests of the creditors of the company."

The government company or the Custodian or Department or the officer appointed, as the case may be, should be entitled to exercise all powers to look after the general superintendence, direction, control and management of the affairs and business of the undertakings of the company.

The employees of the company, whose activities were acquired and taken over by the government company, were free to leave since the continuity of their service would be based on desirability or suitability to the norms and standards of the Government or the government company. Such employees would be paid due compensation.

Offences such as wrongfully withholding or destroying any property forming part of the undertaking of the company should be punishable with imprisonment for a term which might extend up to two years or with a fine which might extend up to Rs.10,000 or with both, it said.

There are Central Acts on the subject too. The Cable Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 was passed by the Centre with a view to regulating the operators of cable television network to bring uniformity in their operations, avoiding undesirable programmes and enhancing optimal exploitation of this technology.

The Act was amended through the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2002 to enable the Government to take steps to protect the interests of the consumers as and when necessary.

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