Customers should not be victims of coercion

When the government made decision to telecast ad-free foreign TV channels a few months ago, the cable operators were adamant that they did not have the technical facilities to air clean feed of foreign. They sought more time for this. Not only that, they stopped telecasting foreign channels without any prior notice. They even refrained from showing the channels which were already free from advertisements.

At that time the government did not bow to their unjust demands and the operators had to broadcast foreign channels free of advertisements. It was then decided that the channel should be connected to the subscribers through the set top box within the stipulated time. The advantage of installing a set top box is that the customer can watch the program on the TV set clearly and the government will also get 15 per cent VAT from the cable operators' income.

For a long time, TV viewers in Bangladesh were held hostages by the cable operators. As a result, the government was deprived of huge amount of revenue. Domestic TV channels were being harmed due to foreign advertisements. Although late, the government has taken a tough decision. We thank the government and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for this.

As per the current decision, the customers in Dhaka city have to install the set top box by 30 November and they have to take it from none but the operators. The question arises as to whether only operators will be able to supply it at all by this period. And due to the shortage of set top boxes, they are charging arbitrary prices -- Tk 2000 to 3500 -- from the customers depending on the area in the city. But the importers say that it is possible to sell a set top box at Tk 1,600 only.

The chaos over the price of set top box must be put to an end. It must be ensured that the operators cannot collect extra charges from the customers. Cable TV feed operators also formed human chain on demand of selling set top box at fair price. They deliver set top boxes directly from the cable operators to the customers.

We think that in the current situation, considering the reality, the authorities should fix a maximum price limit for the set top box. The government can do this considering the market. In case of shortage, initiative can be taken to import set top box on an urgent basis.

The operators say they do not have enough set top boxes and because of this they are selling at a higher price. Prices will go down in the future when the set top box arrives. At the same time, if the deadline for 30 November is not attainable, it can be extended.

These initiatives are very important in the interest of bringing order to the long-running chaos in cable TV services. However, it must be ensured that the customer is not subjected to any form of coercion. If these initiatives are implemented properly, the customer will get the necessary services and chances of evading VAT will also be reduced. We hope that the government will not show any leniency in this regard.