Rajesh Nair

``Government should hold meet to fix uniform fee structure''

PUDUCHERRY: The failure to regulate cable television operations and the lack of proper monitoring mechanism have led to subscribers paying exorbitant monthly subscription fees.

Though the national average for cable TV subscription is Rs. 125, customers here have been paying anywhere between Rs. 140 and Rs. 180 till two month's ago for monthly subscription.

Now, the customers are peeved at the fact that suddenly their subscription rates have been hiked without any valid reason or prior notice. In the last two months, the operators have hiked the fee by Rs 30 to Rs 50 in many parts of the town.

To the dismay of many customers, the charges are not uniform even within a residential colony though the number of channels are the same.

However, some of the ``smart" customers have managed to escape from the hike. It is learnt that the smart customers, who refused to pay the new subscription fee and asked the operators to disconnect the connection, were told to pay the same amount and not to tell their neighbours about the `concession'.

Saleem, president, Puducherry State Cable TV Operators Association, said, "we have received complaints from many customers about the hike. In the next two weeks, a meeting of operators would be called to discuss the issue." He did not have a convincing reason for the hike.

However, another member, on condition of anonymity, said, "we are compelled to hike because a leading Tamil channel had become a pay channel and we have been asked not to tell the customers that the hike was due to this."

Mr. Saleem said the association was in favour of fixing the fee and had already informed the Government of it.

He said the Government should hold a meeting of cable TV operators, representatives of pay-channels and residential associations to arrive at a uniform fee structure.

The lack of proper monitoring mechanism also paved the way for tax evasion by the operators.

Last year, the entertainment tax due from the 150-odd cable TV operators was to the tune of around Rs 30 lakhs to Puducherry and Oulgaret Municipalities.

Local Administration Department Director Vallavan said that during the recent self-assessment of property tax, the municipalities have gathered the number of cable TV subscribers.

According to the assessment, there were around 40,000 households with cable TV connection.

"Earlier, the subscriber base was given by the providers and the entertainment fee had been fixed at 10 per cent of the total subscription fee. Hereafter, as far as entertainment tax is concerned, we will be able to monitor it," he said.