Cablers end strike over India content ban

Protesters upset over gov't ban on Indian ent. Channels

MUMBAI — Pakistani cable operators called off what was supposed to be a seven-day strike after just three days on Aug 26.

The operators blacked out Pakistan’s private satellite TV channels and foreign news channels to protest the government’s ban on Indian entertainment channels.

However, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has agreed to consider allowing them to show Hong Kong-based channels and this may be extended to Indian content, including Rupert Murdoch’s Star, which is uplinked from Hong Kong.

The 4.2 million Pakistani cable subscriber base is addicted to Indian family soaps dished out on Star Plus, Sony Entertainment and Subhash Chandra’s Zee Channels. They even have access to Bollywood movies that are banned in Pakistan.

Before the strike, Pakistan’s Federal Information Secretary, Syed Anwar Mahmood warned that any operator defying the ban would be penalized and his license revoked.

The ban is allegedly due to the tense political relationship between the two countries.

However, Pakistan Cable Operators Assn. Vice chairman Khalid Arain claims the fight is over primetime revenue.

Quoting sales tax figures, he says Pakistan TV had lost about 20% of its revenue to Star Plus.

This is not the first time that Indian channels have been banned in Pakistan. The ban was first implemented in 2001 when political tension was at its highest. The cable operators noticed a sharp drop in subscriptions at that time.