ISLAMABAD -  Cable operators have started suspending their services in parts of the country following their complete strike call from Monday evening over refusal of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to postpone introducing Direct-to-Home (DTH) service.

Earlier, a meeting presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Lahore, decided that the auction of DTH licences will be held as per schedule on Wednesday.

The meeting was also attended by Pakistan Broadcasters Association chairman, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority chairman and representatives of cable operators. The successful bidder would start its operation from November next year.

It was decided that the recommendation would be made to the prime minister that a high level committee be formed to review the matters of PBA and cable operators. This committee would present its recommendations to the prime minister. The operators recently held a meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who reportedly refused to agree to their demand.

On November 15, Cable Operators Association chairman Khalid Arain had said that the launch of DTH was not justified since the cable operators have invested billions of rupees in converting the analogue cable system into the digital one. “It will also ruin their business and cause a huge economic loss.”

BCOA suspends cable services

Sharif Khan adds from Quetta: Balochistan Cable Operators Association (BCOA) has suspended cable services in protest of demands and resolved to discontinue cable services until their demands are met.

Addressing a press conference in Quetta press club on Monday, BCOA representative Babrak Khan and others terming DTH television system a financial murder of cable operators said that it not only snatched the means of livelihood of tens of thousands of families, but would also make to heavily suffer the capable industries along broadcasters.

The cable operators have been discharging services in Pakistan since 1995, and it was the meritorious services of cable operators that revolution of electronic media was triggered, he underscored, adding there were very few TV channels few years ago but the number has now mounted to 128. This all did not happen overnight as the cable operators had invested mega amount of Rs103 billion for installing digital systems in 12 metropolitan cities.

The BCOA representative said that they also wanted to facilitate consumers with STBs installation; nonetheless, the government sidelining over 4200 cable operators in country announced DTH system from Nov 23 without consulting them which is not accepted at any condition.

The suspension of cable services would continue until their demands are fulfilled, he warned the government.

On Nov 17, Pemra officials had said successful launch of DTH services would be a game changer for the Pakistan’s media industry. The authority had shortlisted last week, 12 out of 16 companies for the bidding. The licences will initially be issued for 15 years and could be extended later, according to the agreement.

The country’s media industry is poised to get a $400 million injection, the biggest ever investment in the sector as Pemra is set to auction three licences for digital satellite television services.

Unlike the analogue cable connections, DTH service is a digital platform that relays channels directly to homes from satellite through small dish antennas.

The service is more reliable and lets users view high-definition video. The quality of channels listed at the end on the bandwidth does not deteriorate like those on cable. Estimates of DTH users range from 70,000 to 2.5 million with most of them concentrated in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.