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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cable TV piracy in RP needs to be addressed: group

Local cable operators are lamenting the slow paced legal system, which is hampering the fight against cable television piracy in the country, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia said.

"We are very unhappy with the courts. It had no real progress because the case presented to them over the last few years reached no decisions," Simon Twiston Davies, CASBAA Chief Executive Officer, said in a recent interview.

"More needs to be done on behalf of the TV industry to reinforce the importance of intellectual property rights. People who invest in content needs to be given a return on their investment," he added.

On behalf of broadcasters who own their copyrighted programs, CASBAA earlier filed a complaint against Turtle Cable, an infringing cable operator in Camarines Sur province. A year after the IPO of the Philippines served its first pay TV temporary restraining order (TRO), Turtle Cable settled the case by not airing unauthorized TV programming.

The settlement was reached as proceedings were about to enter the trial stage before the IP Philippines' Bureau of Legal Affairs. If the case had proceeded to trial, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) would have revoked Turtle Cable's operating license under the terms of a memorandum of understanding between IP Philippines and the NTC in 2007.

"We are pleased that we have had an agreement with the industry. We consider this as a sign of improvement in the Philippines. However, more needs to be done. There's a big problem in the Philippines, one which has been going on for many years now. Damages to legal operators, as well as to the international content or to those providing content, and also to the Philippine government is staggering. We would like to raise awareness on IP rights issue to the Philippine government," Davies said.

Citing data, CASBAA said pirated cable TV connections reached 990,000 last year, exceeding the number of legitimate ones at 965,000. The group added that the cost of piracy in the country has hit $94 million from only $84 million last year.

"The lack of anti-piracy enforcement remains a key obstacle. Courts are unresponsive," CASBAA said, adding that the government was also deprived of $44 million in taxes in 2008.

Piracy of pay TV signals can take place by physically tapping into individual lines, taking satellite signals without permission, or by redistributing stolen content to more homes. While it is not expected to be eradicated anytime soon, Davies said the evolving technology will certainly help in reducing cable TV piracy in the country.

"There are no forecasts yet, but there are indications. Digital subscription will probably keep everyone in check. The deployment of digital system will hopefully keep things under control and fuel legal connection," he said.

In a report, CASBAA said digitization is bad for piracy as it makes signal theft more difficult, increasing transparency. The group represents more than 130 channel programmers, pay TV operators, and technology providers in Asia.

"Digitization is good for consumers, good for the industry, good for Asian development. Given a greater choice of programming, the possibility of buying content that suits their particular interests or 'niches,' and the opportunity to view it when they want and where they want, consumers willingly buy. Building out digital networks to meet these demands helps Asian governments achieve their digital development goals. The process could be accelerated if governments relaxed regulatory constraints and improved the investment climate," CASBAA said.

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