The Madras High Court on Thursday stayed a Central Government directive to Kal Cables, parent company of Sumangali Cable Vision (SVC), to run continuous scroll for next 15 days informing subscribers that the cable services would be shut down in 15 days.
The ministry order canceling the license of Kal Cables had come following the denial of a mandatory security clearance from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Kal Cables, part of the media conglomerate Sun Group, is owned by former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanidhi Maran.
The ministry order mailed to the Kal Cables office in Chennai on August 26 demanded the Multi-System operator (MSO) to shut down the operation in 15 days. Kal Cables approached the Madras high court on Wednesday demanding a direction to the government for a permanent license.
It said the Union Home Ministry and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had not issued show cause notices before the denial of security clearance and taking the decision to cancel their license.
Kal Cables comes under the category of MSO, which transmit signals to neighborhood cable operators. It had a monopoly in the state cable network until the launch Arasu cable network by Jayalalithaa government in 2011. However, MSO license for Arasu Cable is also pending for quite sometime due to a TRAI recommendation opposing licenses to state-owned MSOs considering the conflict of interest of governments and its possible control over the free flow of information.
Cancellation of Kal Cables license would affect at least 1.5 lakh customers in Chennai alone. But P Shakilan, state president of the Tamil Nadu Cable TV Operators Association, is optimistic about the latest developments in the state cable TV sector.
He said this uncertainty would benefit the Tamizhaga Cable TV Communication Private Limited (TCCL), another service provider, which is a collective of over 600 independent cable operators. Even if the digital license is canceled, analog service customers of Kal Cables are unlikely to face any problems.
Sun group’s monopoly over the cable TV network in the state had started with the launch of Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) in 2000, yet another example of the phenomenal growth of Maran family under the DMK rule.
With the launch of SCV, another company with MSO license, Hathway with a larger market share had to stop business in the state and several operators were forced to run business as clients of SCV. It was soon after the Maran brothers got entangled in the 2G scam, their cable monopoly faced a tough battle with the government-owned Arasu cable network after Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa revived it.
While hearing the petition of Kal Cable on Wednesday, Justice Ramasubramanian of the Madras High Court said: “Karma was catching up with the Group.”
By Arun Janardhanan