Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation (TACTV) has paid a sum of Rs 5,000 to three patrons for arbitrarily disconnecting Tamil news channel, Sathiyam TV. The cable service, provided by the government, was in violation of broadcasting rules, a tribunal has found. Three Salem-based patrons of the channel approached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, seeking the restoration of the channel. Demanding documents and communication, they had also asked for an explanation as to why the channel was discontinued in the first place.
The petitioners allege that this arbitrary discontinuation took place following a panel discussion on the channel which aired the previous day ie July 11. Titled 'Sathiyam Sathiyame' (truth is only truth), the discussion was regarding the Madras High Court's verdict on allegations of corruption against the Madurai Municipal Corporation. On July 10, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court ordered the Corporation Commissioner of the city to install CCTV cameras to monitor the functioning of vigilance booths in all corporation offices. It also asked the Corporation officers to display prominent signboards stating that corruption is a heinous crime.
According to their petition, S Singaravel, Mathiyalagan Gopal and R Rajesh are active subscribers of Sathiyam TV. While Arasu Cable normally kept them duly informed about discontinuation of any TV channel, they said that the government service-provider had been 'absolutely secretive about the discontinuance of Sathiyam TV, 'stonewalling' their efforts to access the channel. The signal of the channel was disconnected on July 12 without prior notice.
Tribunal Chairperson Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and member AK Bhargava assured the petitioners that the channel had been restored, making it available again to consumers. A 'reasonable cost' of Rs 5,000 was imposed on Arasu Cable to be paid to the petitioners within two weeks. â€śThe counsel for petitioners submits that grievance of the petitioners has been redressed and the channel has been restored on its platform by respondent no. 2 and it is available to the consumers. He prays that the petition may be disposed of but with a reasonable cost. Since the petitioners have got the relief claimed, the petition is disposed of but with a cost of Rs. 5000/- payable by [Arasu Cable] to [the first petitioner] who is expected to apportion it with all the petitioners. The cost should be paid within two weeks,â€ť the Tribunal said.
Among cable services providers in the state, the government-owned Arasu Cable is among the cheapest, making it accessible to an estimated 80 lakh consumers across the state. With such a wide reach and operating under the government, it has come under fire for allegedly downgrading channels on its menu following criticisms of the government.
According to Sathiyam TV sources, the channelâ€™s debate featured Jayaram Venkatesan, the convenor of Arappor Iyakkam, an anti-corruption NGO. â€śWe held a debate about corruption in the corporation. Activist Jayaraman Venkatesan spoke about Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development SP Velumani and the corruption cases against him. Soon after that aired, without notice they removed our channel from Arasu Cable. They have tried creating issues like this before as well,â€ť says a senior staff member at the channel, adding that services have now been restored. For another TV debate in December too, Jayaram was slapped with a criminal defamation case for speaking up on alleged corruption.