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RPG, Zee stick to guns in blackout battle

04-September-2004
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RPG, Zee stick to guns in blackout battle

RPG Netcom, the biggest multisystem operator in Kolkata, is digging in heels for its battle with Zee Telefilms, claiming that it does not owe any money to Zee for feeding its bouquet to subscribers.

A day after Zee switched off its bouquet of 17 channels to RPG Netcom, alleging a payment default of nearly Rs 7 crore, RPG Netcom said its subscribers are not likely to miss any of Zee-Turner channels.

On its own, Zee broadcasts the Zee TV, Cinema, Zee Alpha Bangla and Zee News. It is also the Indian distributor for Cartoon Network and Pogo (for children), movie channel HBO and news channels CNN, CNBC.

Mr Amit Nag, chief executive officer of RPG Netcom, said all the Zee offerings have a niche market.

Zee-Turner, the distribution arm of Zee Telefilms and Turner International India Pvt Ltd, said Thursday it was switching off its bouquet to RPG because of “unfair business practices and large outstanding of over Rs 7 crore.”

A Zee statement quoted Mr Siddharth Jain, chief operating officer of Zee-Turner as saying: “We have been holding talks with RPG Network for a long time. We have been forced to take such an action owing to the large outstanding from their end.”

Mr Jain claimed that RPG’s cheques have been bouncing and it has been making “false promises”. This “only goes to show a complete lack of effort from the RPG management, to resolve the problem,” he said.

Mr Jain said RPG Netcom has been “trying to create monopoly in the market, by giving preferential treatment to some other broadcasters in the field.” RPG Netcom, part of RPG Enterprises, is the sole distributor of STAR TV as well as Sony Entertainment Television in Kolkata.

A Kolkata-based Zee official claimed that RPG Netcom is armtwisting other MSOs here with its rights over STAR and Sony. He said RPG Netcom is telling other MSOs also to black out Zee or face the loss of the popular STAR and Sony channels.

RPG Netcom denied this charge, while also dismissing Zee’s claim about the amount owed to it. “We owe them only Rs 1.70 crore, and even this is within the credit period of three months,” Mr Nag said.

Mr Nag said the other MSOs owe money to STAR and Sony, but RPG Netcom has not cut off their signals.

Mr Nag claimed that Zee Turner charges its own MSO here, Siticables, a lower rate. “We have requested Zee Turner to reduce its rate from Rs 55 to Rs 41 per point, the rate it charges Siti,” he said. Zee denied this discrimination, and said all MSOs are charged a uniform Rs 55.

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