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TN: Cable Takeover Bill passed
January 28, 2006 12:59 IST
The Tamil Nadu assembly on Friday passed a Bill for the takeover of Sumangali Cable Vision, owned by Maran family, Hathaway, a Mumbai-based company, and six other major Multiple Service Operators, on the last day of the current assembly's term.
The Bill was passed after a walkout by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Congress, the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the communists.
"Step by step, the take over would be implemented in other places, leaving the tail-end operators out of the purview. We will spare none who acted against the people's interests," she said.
The walkout was triggered when DMK leader and former minister, Arcot Veerasamy, said during the debate on the bill that his party was not opposed to the take over as such, but was only critical of the 'select takeover.'
When he said that the government would not intend taking over a Salem-based MSO, being run by a ruling party man, the treasury benches booed the DMK leader. As the chair cut him short to make further observations, DMK members shouted that their leader be allowed to have his say. But when it failed, they walked out, with members of other parties following suit.
In her statement, Jayalalithaa recalled Arcot Veerasamy's charge that Governor's prior permission was not obtained before introducing the Bill in the house on Jan 21, and stated that prior permission was not obtained since it was not a money bill. The chief minister said there were nearly 45 lakh households in the state that had cable TV connections.
"Only a few were running the show having a monopoly over the distribution, fleecing the people by charging heavy rates, besides not giving them what they want. The main culprit is SCV, owned by the Sun TV, which belongs to the DMK family," she said.
Pointing out that television sets had now become an indispensable part of every household, the chief minister said that from September 2003, the Conditional Access System was implemented only in Chennai city even as other metros refused to do it.
"I wrote in January 2004 to the then Information Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, pleading for its withdrawal in Chennai. The Centre withdrew it from February, but the SCV management went to the High Court to file a writ petition to stay it saying it had invested crores of rupees on equipment and other infrastructure... The real motive behind it was to continue to earn huge profits by selling set top boxes."
"Neither the Centre nor the parties supporting it have taken steps to get the stay vacated," Jayalalithaa said, adding, "All 'consumers' in the state would stand to benefit by the take over, which had been welcomed by various strata of society."
"A new chapter will be created in the history of cable TV networks as the distribution would be transparent and many operators would come forward to give channels even at cheaper rates," she said.
At one stage, Law Minister Jayakumar intervened to say that SCV was making a profit of nearly Rs.9.25 crore a month. "Is it not the monopoly of a single family," he asked.
Earlier, initiating the debate on the take over Bill, S R Balasubramoniam (Congress) a former Union minister, said a state government had the power only to regulate cable networks and not take them over as it was a central subject.
Out of nearly 500 operators in the state, only 11 were being taken over for the present. "It is partial and against all laws," he said, pleading that the Bill be referred to a select committee of the assembly.