Cable legalization in Colombia hits setback

Regulators nix licensing process

BOGOTA — The legalization of Colombia’s massive pirate cable TV sector took another blow last week, when regulators nixed the licensing process for four regional concessions.

The decision follows a state ombudsman’s report that slammed the CNTV regulating body for accepting incomplete and unrealistic proposals.

Now the CNTV plans to start a new license auction, with a final ruling not ready before March 1999 — a year after the process was first launched.

“Sooner or later, they will have to award the licenses,” said one U.S. programmer, adding that the decision had also disappointed foreign investors.

Some U.S. programmers do business with the larger pirate operators, but such revenues are tiny as subscribers typically pay $5 or so per month.

Colombia has come under growing pressure from the Motion Picture Assn. and cabler org TAP to transform its 3 million home pirate sector into a legit cable arena.

The U.S. Trade Representative has agreed to an out-of-cycle review of Colombian antipiracy efforts in December, which could result in sanctions.

Inadequate legislation only worsens the problems facing Colombia’s telecoms sector, industry insiders said.

“Telecoms regulation in Colombia is still in diapers,” one analyst said.

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