Will go for shutdown if ban on Islamic channels not revoked: Cable operators

Fearing a huge public backlash against banning of 34 TV channels in Kashmir, cable operators on Tuesday said implementing or ignoring the ban order by them will either ways have an adverse impact on their day-to-day operations.
The state government on Sunday directed all the District Commissioners in Kashmir to take action against 34 channels, which includes channels beamed from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, senior member of Kashmir Cable Operators Association, Khateeb Hussain told Kashmir Post that a massive public demand for the banned channels, particularly the religious channels, has put the operators in a tight spot.
“More than business loss, this ban will curb popular viewer choices. People will question our credibility once the Islamic channels go off-air especially since Ramadan is approaching fast. On one side we face the government directive and on other hand strong public demand for these channels puts us in a catch-22 situation,” said Hussain.
Hussain said this ban is an anti-trade decision which will bring down the cable TV business in Kashmir. “We fear that people will stop subscribing to cable TV as the channels which attract them won’t be available anymore,” Hussain said.
Several members of the cable operators association met Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone on Monday and informed him about their issues.
“The only reasoning we are being given by authorities is that these (banned) channels don’t have down-link permission in India. The matter of fact is these channels are being presently aired in Kerala and Hyderabad and many other places as well,” Hussain said.
Hussain said cable operators are mulling to go for a complete shutdown of operations in case authorities don’t revoke the ban. “We will be forced to close down businesses if such extreme diktats are put into practice by the government. We have even informed the DC regarding this,” Hussain said.
While accusing a national daily and its sister concern news channel for launching “a propaganda” against the Islamic channels, Hussain said the ban has been hugely influenced by these recent media reports.
“These reports have been propagating that religious channels from Pakistan etc are fomenting trouble in Kashmir but that is not the reality. How is it possible that Saudi-based channels such as Saudi Sunnah, Saudi Al-Quran and Iran-based Karbala TV which just telecast religion specific content or a cooking channel popular among women will incite violence? We are ready to take news channels off-air but asking us to ban apolitical content is extremely unjustified,” Hussain said.
Terming the ban on Islamic channels as a “direct interference on religion,” president of the association Amjad Noor said cable operators are apprehending that the ban will lead to many of their viewers switching over to other satellite TV mediums such as Dish TV causing huge losses to cable TV operators in Kashmir.
“We are appalled that the same government which used to say that cable TV offers a sense of normalcy is now clamping down these channels. Government has failed to realize that these are free to air channels beamed across the world but instead they are taking bizarre decisions by banning them. Instead of banning Islamic channels, the government should put several national news channels under scanner for “fomenting trouble” by telecasting “exaggerated content on Kashmir,” said Noor.
Noor said these ( religious) channels have been operational for last 20 years ever since cable TV started in Kashmir “but we never faced any problems with these channels”, he added. “In fact we were told to stop cable news channels in 2010 which we adhered to but what difference has that made to the ground level situation. In terms of beaming of channels, we offer religious channels of all faiths to viewers so what is the point in banning religious channels of just one religion. It is an assault on religion,” Noor said.

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