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TATT steps up cable compliance

Published: 
Thursday, January 7, 2016

Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) CEO Cris Seecharan says the agency is stepping up action to ensure that local cable service providers comply with intellectual property laws. 

Seecharan gave that assurance in an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday following a public outcry over a decision by Flow to drop several channels from its line-up. 

Effective January 1, the company dropped PBS, WGN, CW11 and MY33 because it is not authorised to broadcast those channels. The company is currently in talks to keep broadcasting popular Bollywood channel ZeeTV which was also due to be dropped from January 1.

Flow was penalised last year for broadcasting channels without the required intellectual property rights. TATT took action to stop the unauthorised broadcasts and said the failure by cable providers to obtain rights for foreign programming was negatively affecting trade negotiations between Caricom and developed countries.

In the first phase of TATT’s action, cable providers were ordered to remove CBC Toronto, TLC, USA, CityTV, CBS, CW and VH1 USA from their line-ups.

Seecharan explained: “We developed a database where we would have on record all the channels that were being aired by all the broadcasters and then we started to work with the broadcasters and content owners. In some cases we had to identify those channels where content for which authorisation was not obtained were being aired, so it was either they got the rights or they would have to remove the channels. They were written to several times in the last three to four years.”

He said TATT focused on two general categories of content—those for which rights were available but were not obtained by the providers and network channels which operate free-to-air services. 

“They were transmitting those channels without having obtained the required permission. We called those the non network channels,” Seecharan said.

“Initially the authorities said all those channels for which they do not have the rights will have to come off by the end of the year. Eventually it was between 15 to 18 channels. We held meetings with the broadcasters last July and October. At the last meeting we invited not only the local providers but some of the foreign ones related to the free-to-air channels ABC, NBC Fox,” he said.

The TATT CEL said a decision was made was that by December 31, 2015, the non network channels for which rights can be obtained should be removed. However, TATT will “hold its hand”  for now on the network channels like ABC and NBC, he said. 

In a public advisory this week Flow said “like all other cable providers” in T&T, it had been mandated by TATT to remove some channels. Flow is owned by Cable & Wireless Communications Plc (CWC) which is being acquired by European telecommunications giant Liberty Global in a deal that is due to be finalised in the first quarter of this year.

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