Cable operators Nationwide Media Limited and Digi Jadoo Broadband Limited blocked all television channels associated with Zee Network across Bangladesh on Monday
Following the blocking of the Indian Zee Network and associate channels for almost 40 hours, the issue of whether Bangladeshi advertisements can be aired on paid foreign channels and if the government can ban them for doing so has come to the fore.
Cable operators Nationwide Media Limited and Digi Jadoo Broadband Limited blocked all television channels associated with Zee Network across Bangladesh on Monday, after getting a show cause notice from the Information Ministry about the airing of advertisements on paid foreign channels.
However, telecast of the channels resumed on Wednesday.
According to the Information Ministry, they had ordered all cable operators to ban the airing of commercials on paid foreign television channels from April 1 this year, as it violates the Cable Television Network Operations Act, 2006.
Firoz Khan, assistant secretary to the information minister (Television 2), said: “According to the Bangladesh Cable Television Network Act, 2006, cable TV distributors need to get permission and an NOC [no objection certificate] to broadcast international TV channels in Bangladesh. If any TVC [television commercial] is aired on an international channel, then it would be a violation of section 11 of the act. This will render the distribution license of the international channel invalid and/or suspended, and as per section 28, the concerned violator may be handed a two-year prison sentence.”
He also claimed the illegal airing of advertisements on paid foreign channels in Bangladesh was depriving local television channels and print media of about Tk700-1,000 crore in advertising revenue each year. “So, for the sake of local media, the government had taken the decision to ban the airing of local ads on foreign channels.”
Meanwhile, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud told the Dhaka Tribune they did not order the suspension of foreign channels in Bangladesh, but had asked the cable operators to answer the show-cause notices.
“Telecasting foreign channels in Bangladesh is not a crime, but airing advertisements on a paid foreign channel without proper approval from the government is, and these cable operators have been doing this for years,” he said.
He also said paid channels do not show advertisements in other countries either, and action would be taken against cable operators who air advertisements on paid channels.
SM Anwar Parvez, founding president of the Cable Operators' Association of Bangladesh (COAB), claimed the government has taken the decision to ban advertisements on paid channels to make channel owners happy, and the move would destroy cable operators.
Alleging that local distributers have no control over the airing of advertisements on paid foreign channels, he said the government had instructed them not to telecast paid channels who air advertisements.
“If we stop broadcasting paid foreign channels in Bangladesh, the people will not pay Tk400-500 to watch just Bangladeshi channels,” Parvez added.
When asked why Bangladeshi viewers should have to watch advertisements on paid channels that should not be airing them, Parvez evaded the question.
According to sources from cable operators, Nationwide Media Limited is sole distributor of the paid foreign channels of Zee group, Sony group, Discovery group, and Cartoon Network, while Jadoo Vision Limited represents the Star and Colors groups.
Officials of Nationwide Media Limited refused to comment on the airing of advertisements on paid channels when contacted by the Dhaka Tribune. However, a high official of Digi Jadoo Broadband Limited said they had informed the Star and Colors groups about the government’s requirements after receiving the notice from the Information Ministry.
The two groups are yet to send their response, the official added.
The government took the decision to ban the airing of local advertisements on paid foreign channels following the demands of a movement by the Media Unity that began in November, 2015. Prime Minister’s Information Advisor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, Ekattor TV Managing Director Mozammel Babu, ATN Bangla Chairman and Managing Director Mahfuzur Rahman, Impress Telefilm Ltd and Channel-I Managing Director Faridur Reza Sagar were among the leaders of the movement.
The Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO) had also participated in protests demanding a stop to the airing of advertisements on paid foreign channels.
ATCO Senior Vice Chairman Mozammel Babu said: “If Indian channels did not telecast a single advertisement in other countries, then why in Bangladesh? The people are paying them to watch their programs, not advertisements. These paid channels cannot telecast a single advertisement in Bangladesh.”
He also claimed that Bangladeshi channels do not air a single advertisement when they are telecast in Europe or around the world.
Sources from Channel-I also confirmed that they do not air advertisements on their channels when they are telecast in foreign countries.
In addition, the Electronic Media Marketing Association (EMMA) has also protested the airing of advertisements on paid foreign channels. They placed 11-point demands, which include stopping advertisements on paid foreign channels, claiming it was a means of laundering money.
When contacted, Pran-RFL Assistant General Manager Ziaur Rahman said it is not their concern if their advertisements are aired on paid foreign channels, as it is the cable operators who are responsible for this.