Cable operators threaten shutdown if ban on channels not revoked

While accusing a national daily and its sister concern news channel for launching “ a propaganda” against the Islamic channels, Hussain said the ban has been hugely influenced by these recent media reports.

The order took the cable operators by total surprise and they are now beginning to count the cost of the sudden declaration by the government to ban the viewing of thirty odd television channels in Kashmir. The channels which are beamed from the Middle East, Pakistan, and Iran have a large following among the people of Kashmir and it meant good business for the local cable operators. 

“More than business loss, this ban will curb viewers’ choice. People will question our credibility once the Islamic channels go off-air especially since Hajj  is approaching fast. On one side we face the government directive and on other hand  strong public demand for these channels puts us in a catch-22 situation” said Amjad Noor, president of Cable operators association adding that thousands of people are associated with the cable TV business in the Valley. 

Noor said this ban is an anti-trade decision which will bring down the cable TV business by almost 20-40 per cent. "We fear that people will stop subscribing to cable TV as the channels which attracted them won’t be there anymore," Noor said.

Pertinently, several members of the cable operators association met Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed and informed him about their issues. 

“The only reasoning we are being given by authorities is that these (banned) channels  don’t have down-link permission in India. The matter of fact is these channels are being presently aired in Kerala and Hyderabad,” Noor said.

Noor said cable operators are mulling to go for a complete shutdown of operations in case authorities don’t revoke the ban. “We will be forced to close down businesses if such extreme diktats are put into practice by the government. We have even informed the DC regarding this”, Noor said.

While accusing a national daily and its sister concern news channel for launching “ a propaganda” against the Islamic channels, Hussain said the ban has been hugely influenced by these recent media reports.

“These reports have been propagating that religious channels from Pakistan etc are fomenting trouble in Kashmir but that is not the reality. How is it possible that Saudi-based channels such as Saudi Sunnah, Saudi Al-Quran and Iran-based Karbala TV which just telecast religion specific content or a cooking channel popular among women will incite violence. We are ready to take  news channels off-air but asking us to ban apolitical content is extremely unjustified,” Noor said.

Terming the ban on Islamic channels as a “direct interference on religion”, Sahil Ahmad, a cable operator said  they are apprehending that the ban will lead to many of their viewers switching over to other satellite TV medias such as Dish TV causing huge losses to cable TV operators in Kashmir.

“We are appalled that the same government which used to say that cable TV offers a sense of normalcy is now clamping down these channels. Government has failed to realize that these are free to air channels beamed across the world but instead they are taking bizarre decisions by banning them. Instead of banning Islamic channels, the government should put several national news channels under scanner for “fomenting trouble” by telecasting “exaggerated content on Kashmir”, said Ahmed. Ahmed said these  religious channels have been operational for last 20 years ever since cable TV started in Kashmir " but we never faced any problems with these channels", he added. "In fact we were told to stop cable news channels in 2010 which we adhered to but what difference has that made to the ground level situation. In terms of beaming of channels, we offer religious channels of all faiths to viewers so what is the point in banning religious channels of just one religion. It is an assault on religion,” he said.

The channels that have been banned are Peace TV English, Peace TV Urdu, ARY QTV, Madni Channel, Noor TV, Hadi TV, Paigam, Hidayat, Saudi Al-Sunnah Al-Nabawiyah, Saudi-Al-Quran Al-Karim, Sehar, Karbala TV, Ahli-biat TV, Message TV, Hum TV, ARY Digital Asia, Hum Sitaray, ARY Zindagi, ARY Musik, TV One, ARY Masala, ARY Zauq, A TV, Geo News, ARY News Asia, Abb Takk News, Waseb TV, 92 News, Duniya News, Samna News, Geo Tez, Express News and ARY News. Apart from religious and news channels, the list interestingly includes a sports channel, two culinary channels and a music channel.