The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) on Thursday welcomed newly invigorated government approaches to pay-TV signal theft in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia.
In Hong Kong, telecoms regulator the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) and the Hong Kong Customs Department have undertaken a series of raids on traders in unauthorised pay-TV equipment which should result in criminal prosecutions of multiple vendors. In late March, the Hong Kong Customs Department seized 30 pay-TV decoders designed to decrypt satellite signals only licensed for the Philippines that could allow unscrupulous public venues in Hong Kong to profit while refusing to pay licensing fees in Hong Kong.
"We are extremely pleased with these initiatives by OFTA and Hong Kong Customs to address what the industry and the government believe are highly corrosive activities damaging to the community at large," said Marcel Fenez, the Chairman of CASBAA.
"If pay-TV piracy is not controlled the entire media value chain is damaged and investment in vitally important domestic pay-TV programming, as well as in international programming, will dry up."
CASBAA also commended a newly proactive stance being taken by the Philippines pay-TV and telecoms regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The NTC recently announced its intention to create an Intellectual Property Unit in cooperation with a second Philippines regulator, the Intellectual Property Office, to address all issues of content piracy.
Last week it was revealed that the NTC is aggressively fighting a court case directly challenging its jurisdiction over pay-TV signal theft in the Philippines. Government officials believe the case could well move to the Supreme Court of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the courts in Malaysia have also demonstrated their commitment to fighting pay-TV piracy by passing deterrent sentences on pirate traders in pay-TV equipment and services. Last week a dealer in illegally cloned Smart Cards was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on four charges of possession of cards designed to unlawfully access Malaysia's ASTRO "Direct To Home" satellite pay-TV service. (It should be noted that since the cloning of the Smart Cards ASTRO has significantly upgraded its security to assist the Malaysian authorities.)
"These initiatives, combined, demonstrate that the authorities in multiple jurisdictions are becoming more and more aware of the issues surrounding intellectual property theft," said Fenez. "Actions like these not only improve the investment climate for the entertainment industry and for all industries with technology or expertise to protect, but also fight criminal gangs. We need to constantly reiterate that the act of purchasing unauthorised pay-TV services puts money into the hands of Organized Crime."
In Hong Kong CASBAA, working with its member channels and distribution platforms, is undertaking civil actions in the courts against public venues (clubs and bars) screening unauthorised pay-TV services.
"When governments and the industry work together there is a real hope that these illegal activities can be brought under control," said Fenez. "We warmly endorse these government initiatives in Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong."