Ahmedabad, February 20: Cable operators in Gujarat on Monday said they would launch a statewide protest in the coming days against leading television broadcasters who have stopped providing feed over the non-signing of fresh agreements as per hiked prices under the New Tariff Order.

The announcement came days after major broadcasters, such as Disney Star, Zee Entertainment Enterprises and Sony Pictures Networks India Ltd, blocked the signals of over 100 of their pay channels in Gujarat, affecting nearly 50 lakh cable homes in the state, said Pramod Pandya, president of Cable Operator Association of Gujarat. TRAI's New Rules For DTH & Cable TV: Last Day For Selecting TV Channels on Tata Sky, Dish TV & Airtel Digital TV; Here's All You Need To Know.

Earlier, the broadcasters issued notices on February 15 to cable operators/Multi System Operators to sign the new Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) for New Tariff Order (NTO) 3.0 issued by the sectoral regulator TRAI.

However, cable service providers across the country did not heed it leading to the disconnection of signals by the broadcasters. Cable operators in Gujarat said they may have to shut down their business if they agree to broadcasters' demand for a hike in the monthly tariff of their pay channels, he said.

"Broadcasters have found a loophole in NTO 3.0 and took an arbitrary decision to impose a steep hike in tariff. At present, a family can enjoy major channels for Rs 400 per month. If we accept the demand of broadcasters, the monthly cost to our customers would go rise by 60 to 70 per cent," Pandya told reporters.

According to Pandya, TV broadcasters are providing their feed to Over The Top (OTT) platforms at just one-fourth of the price they charge from cable operators.

"Why do OTT platforms enjoy lower tariffs while we are forced to pay exorbitant fees? If this issue is not resolved soon, we will hold protests in every district. We will also memorandums to district collectors, MPs and MLAs against this monopolistic trade practice by broadcasters," said Pandya.

"Though cable operators have drawn the attention of TRAI and Information and Broadcasting Ministry to this issue and sought relief for operators, nothing concrete has happened so far. The new pricing is unreasonable," he alleged.

Nearly 5,000 cable operators and 40,000 of their staff and technicians in Gujarat will have to leave this business if such an exorbitant price hike is not rolled back, Pandya claimed.

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