Cable war between Karunanidhi's son and nephews hots up

Chennai, June 14 The row between the Karunanidhi family and their close relatives the Marans over Tamil Nadu's lucrative cable television services market took a new turn Saturday.

Saturday, June 14, 2008 | 8:59:31 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Chennai, June 14 (IANS) The row between the Karunanidhi family and their close relatives the Marans over Tamil Nadu's lucrative cable television services market took a new turn Saturday.

Days after Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's son M.K. Azhagiri prevented the Maran brothers from meeting the 84-year-old patriarch on his birthday, the ball is now in the Maran's court with the Telephone Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) Saturday asking Azhagiri's Royal Cable Vision (RCV) to reveal its subscriber base.

Azhagiri, Karunanidhi's Madurai-based son, set up his Royal Cable Vision, a multi-service cable TV operating service (MSO), in April hoping to provide cable TV service in the southern districts of Madurai, Theni, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Dindigul, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi and a few other districts in Tamil Nadu.

Cable service in these districts have so far been provided by Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), the MSO wing of the Sun Network, a television channels and services group owned by Kalanadhi Maran and Dayanidhi Maran, Karunanidhi's grand nephews.

DMK watchers see the setting up of RCV as a direct fallout of the political and business rivalry between Azhagiri and the Marans since May 2007, with Azhagiri hoping to hurt the business interests of the Marans through RCV.

Azhagiri and the Marans have been on the warpath since May last year, when a Tamil daily newspaper owned by the Sun group, Dinakaran, published a survey whose results declared that 70 percent of the people of Tamil Nadu favoured Karunanidhi's younger son M.K. Stalin as his likely successor and only two percent favoured Stalin's elder brother Azhagiri.

This triggered anger among Azhagiri's supporters, who burnt down the office of Dinakaran in Madurai, causing the death of three employees and injuries to several others. Dayanidhi Maran was dropped from the Manmohan Singh cabinet subsequently under DMK pressure.

Last Thursday, Azhagiri complained to the local media that the Sun Network (owned by the Marans) had refused to give RCV its bouquet of 14 pay channels.

Azhagiri and his son M.K.A.D. Dayanidhi, who is the managing director of RCV, took their complaints this week to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). They argued that TRAI 'interconnectivity regulations stipulated for every broadcaster to provide on request, signals of its TV channels on a non-discriminatory basis'.

RCV complained that Channel Plus-TN, a unit of Sun TV network, had been refusing to provide decoder boxes for all the Tamil channels on its network.

SCV in turn pointed out that RCV had not given Sun Network the number of its subscribers and cable operators 'which is a pre-condition for giving signals'.

It alleged RCV had attempted to cut out Sun network's regional channels from its transmission bouquets, but public demand for the Sun channels had made it seek signals from the Maran's Sun Network group.

Telecommunications Minister, A Raja of the DMK, is now said to have instructed TDSAT to hear RCV's petition under the Free Airway Policy.

TDSAT judge and chairman Arunkumar Saturday directed Royal Cable Vision to file details about its subscribers.

RCV counsel K.K. Mani urged TDSAT to direct Sun Network to provide their signals immediately. Sun Network's counsel Sarabjit pointed out that RCV was too new an enterprise and 'the law stipulates that a minimum of three months is necessary to provide the signal'.

Arunkumar then posted the case for further hearing in July. All eyes are now on Azhagiri to see if RCV reveals its subscriber base to the rival SCV's Sun group.

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