The hope with which cable TV operators joined the Tamil Nadu government promoted Arasu Cable Corporation (ACC), promising a cheaper alternative to subscribers, at the height of the feud within the state’s first family is fast receding.
Now that the 2007 conflict between Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi’s family and his grand-nephews, the Maran brothers, has ended, cable operators, who joined the state-run entity feel they have been left in the lurch.
Industry sources say they are battling political pressure to quit ACC and join one of the larger Multi System Operators (MSO) functioning across the state. Some cable operators in Tirunelveli and Vellore complained that they had to leave ACC owing to political pressure.
ACC is now on the verge of collapse, with just one or two operators in Tirunelveli, Vellore and Thanjavur still on its network, while many quitting the cable corporation in Coimbatore from around March this year in the wake of a police complaint by ACC against the Maran-run private operator, Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) for allegedly cutting ACC cables.
A senior SCV official declined to comment on this story and asked WE to contact Kalanidhi Maran. Maran could not be reached on telephone. An email sent to his office remained unanswered.
“They (ACC) have virtually shut down operations in Vellore and Tirunelveli. All the infrastructure created by the government will end up as liabilities.” says, Shakilan, president, Tamil Nadu Cable TV Operators’ Welfare Association.
“In Thanjavur, about 200 operators are still trying to stick on to ACC but in Coimbatore, almost all cable operators have gone back to private networks. All operators want the CM to fulfill promises made to them last year and protection provided to them.” Shakilan adds.
“We still believe in the concept of ACC. Cable operators are virtually on the brink of collapse. ACC would help us survive. They have extremely good digital quality pictures and a well established network,” an cable TV operator said.
“We fear for our future in the cable business, if ACC cable does not take the steps it promised. We even asked for the equipment to be given on lease to us. But the government is not willing to do even that,” another operator in Vellore said.
Senior government officials, when contacted, indicated that some announcement was in the offing, but declined to talk about ACC’s plans. ACC was in fact expected to begin operations in Chennai in September 2008 itself, but there is no sign of the rollout happening.
Even the policy note tabled in the Assembly on Monday has no mention of the ACC’s plans for Chennai. “Arasu Cable Corporation has set up digital head-ends at Thanjavur, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore and Vellore utilising state-of-the-art equipment. Arasu is carrying out works in the districts to facilitate distribution of the signals,” the policy note said.
We has recently reported that Hathway Datacom, the Rajan Raheja-owned multi system operator, has discontinued its cable TV services in Chennai. TheO, which had a 10 per cent share of the city’s cable TV market, stated that SCV, had left theO with no choice but to close operations.