Saturday, April 12, 2008

Indonesian Government Temporarily Blocks Astro's Broadcast

The Indonesian government blocked Friday the broadcasting of subscription television operator Astro, a unit of Malaysia's largest pay TV operator Astro All Asia Network Plc., due to its failure to meet obligations.

Astro, managed in Indonesia by PT Direct Vision, is accused by the Ministry of Information and Communication of a number of negligences, including failing to pay fees for using certain frequency bands.

"The ministry has temporarily banned Astro's broadcasting for failing to meet all of its obligations," said Gatot D. Broto, spokesman for the ministry's directorate general of post and telecommunication.

Astro, which began operations in 2006, broadcasts via satellite in Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

The operator has been off-air since 10 a.m. Friday.

Gatot said the ministry would allow Astro to resume broadcasting immediately upon fulfillment of its obligations. "If Astro has fulfilled the obligations by next Monday, it can directly resume its broadcast," he said, adding the ban had nothing to do with frequency problems or satellite reciprocal arrangements.

Gatot said the government had contacted Astro to fulfill its payments on March 19 before issuing a warning letter. "We won't make it complicated. We just want to enforce the broadcasting regulation. And it has nothing to do with Astro's monopoly of English League soccer programs," he said.

Direct Vision corporate affairs vice president Halim Mahfudz said the company had met all ministry requests and was now waiting for the government to end restrictions on its broadcasting.

He said the company had paid around Rp 191 million (US$20,000) to the ministry Thursday for the right to use the frequency.

"We are worried there will be legal action (from customers) for missing Saturday's English League soccer match and the International Golf Competition if the government still refuses to resume the broadcast tomorrow," he said. It will cost us an estimated loss of around US$100,000 for not broadcasting our programs for one day."

There are two systems -- cable and satellite -- available in Indonesia, operated by five major players; Indovision, Indosat IM2, Astro, First Media and Telkom Vision.

Around 500,000 households in Indonesia subscribe to satellite-based television, while 200,000 use cable. Subscribers to the five local operators grew from 476,000 in 2006 to 700,000 last year. (The Jakarta Post)



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