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Opposition walkout marks adoption of Cable TV Bill

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WALKOUT: Congress Legislature Party leader S.R. Balasubramonian and other Opposition members leaving the Assembly in Chennai on Friday. Photo: V. Ganesan
WALKOUT: Congress Legislature Party leader S.R. Balasubramonian and other Opposition members leaving the Assembly in Chennai on Friday. Photo: V. Ganesan

Special Correspondent

It will ensure transparency in the administration of operations: Chief Minister

CHENNAI: The Assembly on Friday passed the Tamil Nadu Acquisition, Transfer and Taking Over of the Administration of Cable Television Network (including Multiple Service Optical Transport System) Bill 2006.

Five Opposition parties staged a walkout close on the heels of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announcing that the takeover would lead to a new era ensuring transparency in the administration of cable television network operations in the State.

Members of the DMK, Congress, PMK, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India were protesting the rejection of Congress Legislature Party leader S.R. Balasubramonian's plea to refer the issue to a select committee.

Intervening in the debate, Ms. Jayalalithaa said: "This Bill does not need a financial memorandum as the payment will be made by a designated Government company. As it is not a Money Bill, prior recommendation of the Governor is not required." The Government had kept in mind people's interest while enacting laws, she said, citing as proof, taking over of sand quarrying and retail trade of Indian Made Foreign Liquor.

Denying that the move was directed against any particular group, she said in the first phase, the new system would be implemented in areas under all the six corporations to remove defects and irregularities in cable television network operations. It would gradually be extended to other areas.

She said though the law would benefit the public, the DMK opposed it, as it would affect the monopoly control of a multiple service optical transport system (MSO) operator. Other Opposition parties opposed the Bill as they were bound by "alliance dharma."

She said Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) had indulged in "anti-people activities" which ran counter to people's interests. Around 95 per cent of the cable connections in Chennai and a large number of connections in other Corporation areas were under its control.

Though the Centre, following her plea two years ago, put implementation of the Conditional Access System (CAS) in all metros on hold, SCV moved the High Court to obtain a stay so as to assert its monopoly. The DMK and its allies had not made any efforts to lift the stay as they were not really interested in the residents of Chennai.

Dominant MSOs not only decided the package for channels provided by them but also fixed the charges. They had brought the tail-end operators under their control using threats and coercion.

They indulged in "unfair practices" and "behind-the-screen activities" against rival MSOs besides disrupting the telecast of other channels, she said.

Mr. Balasubramonian said the State Government had no powers to take over the MSOs, as communications was a Central subject. However, it could take steps to regulate them.

Arcot N. Veerasamy said the Bill was introduced without the Governor's recommendation. The DMK would welcome the law if the Government came forward to take over all the 500 MSOs in the State.

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