Foreign TV channels must run in accordance with the law

Enforcing the law is not easy in a country where flouting the law is the norm. The obstruction in broadcasting ad-free (clean feed) foreign TV channels proves the absence of law in the country. In 2006, the BNP government enacted the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act. The Awami League came to power and made the rules on 21 October 2010. But even after so many years, it could not be implemented due to the inflexibility of cable operators and distributors.

After the government took initiative to implement the law from 1 October, they stopped broadcasting all kinds of foreign channels without advertisements. It is nothing more than a tactic to put pressure on the government and the viewers.

Cable operators have been ignoring the law and broadcasting foreign TV programmes. Although the operators are reaping benefit from this, the government is suffering due to tax evasion. It has been ultimately affecting the country's television channels, the entertainment industry and its associated artistes, crew and advertisers.

They have been demanding for long to stop the broadcast of foreign TV channels with advertisements and that these should be aired without advertisements. Although late, the government has taken steps to enforce the law and we appreciate the government's position.

Ad-free foreign channels are shown in all countries of the world including India, Nepal and Pakistan. Cable operators and distributors of our country have been running foreign TV channels with advertisements for so long.

Worryingly, after the government's current initiative, cable operators and distributors stopped broadcasting on all foreign channels from 1 October to put pressure on the government, not to negotiate. Later, information and broadcasting minister Hasan Mahmud warned that they should start showing ad-free channels. Although the operators started news-based channels, popular programme based channels are still closed.

This position of cable operators and distributors is not only unethical, but also illegal. The arguments they have given for not promoting ad-free programmes are not even valid. This problem can be solved by taking ad-free feeds from foreign channels and building digital cable network systems. In a country where the market for cable TV is more than Tk 60 billion, why they do not invest to digitalise it?

For so many days they have been doing business almost without any capital. Their claim of falling revenue is unfounded. The fact of the matter is that cable operators will not have the opportunity to evade taxes after digitalising the network systems. Are the cable operators so adamant to evade taxes?

We hope that the operators and distributors will immediately take the necessary steps to show all the foreign TV channels in compliance with the law and digitise the entire system. The government, the concerned authorities and the viewers must be ready to wait for a reasonable time required for this work.

If they have a just demand, they can discuss it with the government. But they cannot simply continue to do business day after day illegally and keep the viewers and the government hostage. We hope that the government will remain steadfast in its stand on ad-free foreign channels and will not bow to any unjust and unfair demands.