Now Talking TV: Cable wars, local content and service providers. Suroor TV
Duration: 00:46:58; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 79.853; Saturation: 0.176; Lightness: 0.420; Volume: 0.290; Cuts per Minute: 4.215; Words per Minute: 143.803
Summary: A candid conversation with Kashif Haq and D. H. Lokesh. Kashif is a young entrepreneur who had tried to run an Urdu language channel out of his family house in Cox town. A discussion of Suroor TV's twists and trials in going on air, its popularity amongst the large Urdu and Deccani speaking population of Shivaji Nagar, and its ultimate removal from the air waves by MSOs (Multi-Service Operators) after about six months, formed the basis of a no-holds-barred talk show on local media politics and monopolies. In it, Lokesh also makes reference to the issues faced by small cable operators because of MSO monopolies and rampant suppression tactics. The conversation concludes on a note of hope for Suroor, as Kashif talks about making it a satellite channel by the use of DTH technology.
AA: Just that we started shooting a quite late.
KH: What have you done, what's your background?
AA: I'm an artist and a painter.
KH: You're a painter.
AA: But I do some short films.
KH: You know Anupa? She's a painter. She's doing her arts from Baroda.
AA: Right, right. Anupa?
KH: Yes, Anupa.
AA: So I've been working on old footage of Bangalore. You know, 8mm format. And then I re-edit it.
KH: The basic idea of my channel is to give recognition to our people, our contributions, our achievements. Because you have some great people in Bangalore.
SA: Can you please talk in Hindi, so that when we use the footage...
The clip depicts a candid conversation between Ayisha Abraham
, a visual artist who does installation art and makes short digital films, Kashif Haq, a young entrepreneur set up the now-defunct Urdu channel Suroor TV, D. H. Lokesh, a Bangalore-based local cable operator, and Shaina Anand
, a film-maker and artist.
KH: The main objective of our channel was to talk about our people. If you see why we started our channel in Urdu...
LK: Please speak in Hindi so that when we broadcast this, the locals can understand what you are saying.
KH: Urdu is the second most spoken language in the world. Except for English, of course. And Urdu is the most spoken language in India. That's because Urdu doesn't have any regional barriers; you can speak it in no matter which state you are in. It is a common misconception that only Muslims speak Urdu. But when you go to North India, you'll find Punjabis and Haryanavis also speaking it. This language has always been suppressed. We've started an Urdu channel in Bangalore because there are about 18 to 20 lakh (one lakh = one hundred thousand) Muslim people who do not have any form of media targeted solely at them. The information you receive from channels, at a national level, is in Hindi. But at a state and local level, the communication is in Kannada only.
LK: There are no Urdu channels.
Kashif explains why he chose to set up an urdu language channel. He bases this on the fact that a large number of people across India speak Urdu
KH: How many people in the state actually understand Kannada is a little difficult to determine. There are three newspapers with a total circulation of twenty thousand people.
SA: Is that Shaam Tak
KH: No, Shaam Tak
is a relatively new paper. It started just two months back.
is an old newspaper and it has a circulation of about fifteen thousand people, in all of Karnataka. And another newspaper called Siyasat
has a circulation of about three to four thousand people.
LK: And that's also an old newspaper.
KH: And these figures are for Karnataka as a state. The Muslim population in the state is about 18 to 19 lacs.And the number of people who speak Urdu is more than that because in places like Gulbarga, Belgaam, Bidar, almost everyone speaks Urdu. Because if you look at Urdu's history, you'll find that it originated from Gulbarga. It wasn't born in Delhi or Lucknow, it was born in Gulbarga, Karnataka. Very few people know about this.
Kashif makes mention of the use of Kannada as a medium of communication in Bangalore.
KH: Our motive was to educate people here and spread awareness through the Urdu media which is not used very often. And we wanted the content to be very local. Because the people staying just 10 kms away from Bangalore, in places like Kolar, Bhangarpet and Tumkur, face different problems than the people staying here. Our problems, needs and wants are completely different from theirs. In Tumkur, for example, the problems will be different because the social aspect is different. The local artistes, the shayars
(poet), the qawwals
and anchors didn't have a platform. Muslim artistes could not get into the Kannada or the Telugu industry because of the language barrier, so they have to go to Mumbai. And a lot of them have gone. So we started this channel to give them a platform.
LK: To give them an opportunity.
KH: Yes, to give them an opportunity.
SA: What did you say? Common people are often talented, but their talent is never discovered because of a lack of platform.
LK: So Suroor TV, a local channel, was started to give them a platform. To basically give the locals a chance, an opportunity.
Kashif dicusses giving local artists in Bangalore a platform to perform in their own language i.e. Urdu.
KH: So that even a common man gets an opportunity to show his talent to others. Who knows? It might become lead him to success. So the first thing that was required was a platform. This was our motive and our cause.
LK: Why have you named your channel 'Suroor
'? What does it mean?
(pleasure) and mazaa
LK: To loose oneself in it?
KH: Yes, to loose yourself in pleasure.
SA: Like mild nashaa
KH: Exactly. The other reason why we named it Suroor
was because hazrat
Tipu Sultan used to call Bangalore Darul Suroor
, the gate of pleasure. One can find Suroor
in anything; some people find it in prayers, others in food. That's why we called it 'Suroor
.' We started this channel on November 15th, 2003. We started it with Siti Cable because in a city like Bangalore, there are gatekeepers of information and they've bought the system through the government officials. Currently in Bangalore there are three major cable operators.
Kashif explains the meaning behind the term 'Suroor.'
Kashif discusses the monopoly of the market by three major MSOs - In Cable
which is owned by the Hinduja group
, Siti Cable
, owned by the Rajan Raheja Group.
LK: That's what I said - the MSOs have captured the market. They have a monopoly. Apart from those three MSOs, no one else can survive in the market.
KH: In Cable, Siti Cable and Hathaway.You wont believe it.
SA: And this is all India?
KH: Yes, this is in India.
LK: In India, in Bangalore.
KH: It's there all over India, but let me talk about Bangalore because I know more about Bangalore. See, In Cable is owned by Raheja. Or Hinduja?
KH: Hinduja, which is a big construction firm. Hathaway is owned by?
KH: So Hathaway is owned by the Rahejas, In Cable is owned by the Hindujas, and Siti Cable is owned by Subhash Chandra Zee TV. According to TRAI, when I started my channel, these MSOs were supposed to take our signals for free. They were not supposed to charge me a penny because the purpose of our channel was the distribution of information. But since they had the power, they demanded a carrier fee from me.
SA: And this was Siti Cable?
KH: No, not just Siti Cable. It was everyone; In Cable and Hathaway also.
KH: So at that time Siti Cable was charging me 1 lakh per month as carrier charges. Because I thought that I'll pay it for six months and in the meantime the demand for the channel will go up. But the people at Siti Cable were quite cunning; they would show my channel for two months and would cut it the moment its popularity started peaking so that its demand doesn't increase.
SA: So that you'll have to run back to them.
KH: Yes. They would definitely disconnect it on Saturdays and Sundays.
LK: It would be disconnected on Saturday and Sunday.
KH: And they would give us some lame excuses for it, like there was a power cut, etc. I went to Hathaway with many letters from MPs and even went to the chairman of TRAI. Who's the chairman of TRAI?
Kashif discusses his treatment at the hands of Siti Cable, as well as his attempt to seek assistance from the The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India
Kashif describes his attempts to seek assistance from the TRAI
. The head of the TRAI at the time of this incident would have been Pradip Baijal, who chose to retire
KH: Okay, I'll tell you what's TRAI. Cable operators are not categorised under one title, we are broadcasters but are grouped under the Information and Technology Ministry. So I wrote a letter to the chairman of TRAI; I can't recall his name right now.
SA: When did this happen?
KH: This happened in March or April.
AA: Is it Dayanand Nidhi?
KH: No, not Dayanand Nidhi. He's a minister. Anyways, I had written to him too. So they gave me a very impractical reply. They said that the cable system in Bangalore was analogue, not digitized. And till the time it remains monologue, they can't take any actions against the MSOs. Now this is the latest charter of TRAI. This is the one and if you see, it clearly says '...every broadcaster should provide on request signals of its TV channel on non discriminatory terms to all distributors of TV channels.'
KH: There are many such things. Like this one which says, 'Any agent or any intermediary of broadcaster multi system operator must respond to the requests of providing signals to TV channels in a reasonable time period, but not exceeding thirty days of the request.' There was a lot of demand for my channel, many viewers wrote letters to them. I got a letter from the ex-MP here, Jafar Sharif; I got letters from many Muslim MPs. I went to Delhi for these letters and many big people gave me the letters, many cable operators like Lokesh also wrote. But In Cable, Siti Cable and Hathaway have gained so much power that you have to basically do what they say. Either you pay them the carrier charges, 1 lac or 2 lacs, basically pay them whatever they demand. Otherwise you cannot run a channel like this in Bangalore.This is the situation in Bangalore.
LK: But Suroor TV was becoming very popular.
KH: It was definitely popular because it was the only local media channel.
Kashif describes his attempts to keep his channel running, and the continued situation in Bangalore.
Kashif and Lokesh discuss the continued demand for Suroor TV, especially during Ramadan
. There is also a discussion regarding the bullying of the prominent MSOs.
LK: I showed it for three months and it became so popular that when it was cut, my customers said that they would pay me only if I put the channel back.
KH: Yes, the demand was there.
LK: That's why when your channel is disconnected, I get stuck in problems. That's why I called Kashif to tell him that I can't show his channel anymore. If the standard is sorted, then I'll show it; otherwise I'll get into trouble. Even though my customers called me to asking about it. Yes, we receive phone calls even till now.They call continuously. Especially since it was Ramadan.
KH: Yes, they do call asking about why the channel is not being shown. But these people have become really strong. I'll tell you a problem that Loki... Lokesh is facing.These MSOs have become so strong that, say Lokesh has a connection and they ask him to join them - he's with Siti Cable right now so if In Cable ask him to join them - and he refuses, then they threaten him. They've started intimidating the operators by using muscle power, goondagardi
(muscle power). They threaten him to join them. Lokesh is still strong; there are many weak cable operators. They don't even get to know when the MSOs give their signals to someone else.
KH: This person spends money, he does the networking for the entire area. In a blink they cut his wires and fix their own, and before you know it, they have the connection of the area. And he'll be helpless. Because they've got a lot of power now and there's no one to stop them. They're spread all over India, and as I told you, these are all big companies. And I doubt if the law will do anything to prevent what's going on. But as far as cable operators are concerned, if you set aside the cities like, Hyderabad, Delhi, etc, which are the stronghold of these MSOs; in the smaller towns, the cable operators are doing really well.
LK: Even in villages, the operators are doing quite well. They are independent. They show five channels; they have their own channels which are free to air.
KH: They have their own news.
LK: They have their own local news which is village-centric. They are doing quite well.
KH: This is happening in small villages.
There is a discussion regarding the illegal methods used by MSOs to consolidate their position, as well as a conversation regarding cable providers in villages.
SA: For how long has this been happening?
KH: It's been happening for the past three-four years. The technology has become quite cheap.
SA: So you all also use mini DVs.
KH: We use DVs and VHS also, but we digitize in a computer and post-editing, we play it in a DVD or CD format. That's how we do it. The reason we started this is... I've done my MS Communication.
AA: From where?
KH: From Bangalore Central College, because three years back it was there. There's a very good show called 'Full house,' on Zee English. In that, the main character is a anchor in a local channel and another character runs his own Radio show. While I was doing my Mass Communication, a Mass Communication college launched it's own satellite. Where are we? This Mass Communication college has launched it's own satellite. In the States they have their own community channels, the universities have their own channels.
SA: Micro Cinema... hundred seater.
KH: Micro Cinema, etc. So that was our motive to start, because it targets a niche market. We had Doordarshan first... It's known as narrow casting.
The conversation turns technological, with a discussion of DV
. The conversation also includes a discussion on micro-cinema.
AA: Did you go to the US?
KH: No, I did not go to the US.
AA: So you heard this from...?
KS: Yeah, because we studied and we read a lot. I gave you an example of that Zee English show called 'Full House.' In India, previously broadcasting was prevalent; we had Doordarshan and everyone used to watch Doordarshan. When cable came - for example, Zee etc, it got a little bit...
SA: First we had Doordarshan, and then they launched Channel 2.
KH: Then you got Channel 2, DD, then the regional channels.Then you got sports channel, movie channel and music channel. Now broadcasting will definitely come down. And narrow casting will become narrower. What are the problems and issues of the Urdu speaking population in Bangalore? Because we're different from Hyderabad,Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu; so our motive was to bring to light our problems. The policies and the aid that the government offers, how will it go to the rickshaw puller? How will it reach them? Because they don't know how to read Urdu, or Kannada, or English. The government announcements in Bangalore are not shown on Hindi channels, they're shown only on Kannada channels and these people don't know Kannada. So how to reach them? Our main motive was to facilitate that.
Kashif discusses the continued need for regional channels that brings information to the common man in a medium that he can understand.
SA: When we talk about the digital movement, we say that two things have come down; three maybe, but two definitely, to most middle class and lower middle class households is communication. They have phone, maybe cell phone and cable TV, that is there down the line.
KH: I totally agree with you.
SA: And it's been built by this door-to-door network of wire.
KH: Definitely. I totally agree with you but the problem is they are not getting the right kind of communication. I don't want to sit and watch FTV.
SA: Absolutely. That's what I'm saying, that the one access that people have is a wire going out of their window and coming into their TV.
KH: But there is no control over them.
SA: Nothing, nothing.
KH: Not at all.
Kashif and Shaina discuss aspects of control and the increased availability of media through the digital movement.
Kashif and Lokesh discuss the roles of the large MSOs in India, and in Bangalore in particular.
SA: They have to watch the...
KH: That's the reason why Desktop and DTH were introduced. But in an Indian context, they won't work out.
SA: Can you rewind a bit? You were talking about channel one, and then cables came. Now if we can talk a little bit about the cable time when there were small operators and there was no DTH, there was no CAS. Now we've reached this other bad moment when these MSOs are starting to behave like any other big corporation.
KH: These MSOs don't really have a role.
LK: This is just a business for them and they're making money out of it.
KH: They are least bothered. Like the carrier fee that they were demanding from me is neither legal nor illegal. It's not mandatory to pay them what they are demanding. But I think their main role is... Lokesh, what do you think these people from In Cable and Hathaway keep...?
Kashif and Lokesh discuss the presumed actions of the MSOs with regard to other channels.
LK: That's what I'm saying, these people have invested heavily in this business and now they're making money of it.
KH: They are charging everyone. Sometimes they'll charge MTV, sometimes Channel V.
KH: Seriously. They charge the big companies also. As I told you...
LK: If the channel authorities don't pay up, their channels are pushed back.
KH: Tell them about the prime time ...
LK: That's what I'm saying.
KH: They have three bands.
LK: They have three bands, one is a mid band and the other a prime band. In the prime band, the signals will be received by old back and white TVs also, so that poor people can watch these channels too. Nowadays news channels like NDTV pay MSOs to come on the prime bands.
KH: They are blackmailing them too.
LK: If Aaj Tak
was coming on prime band, and NDTV pays the MSOs they will push Aaj Tak
to another band and put NDTV on prime. The channels that are paying come on prime bands. So the local channels that cannot pay are either pushed back or not shown at all.
Kashif and Lokesh discuss the case of ETV
and the reaction of the MSOs to the same.
LK: Because the operator doesn't have the freedom to give eighty channels or ninety channels.
KH: For example, ETV doesn't pay them anything.
LK: They don't pay so they are not shown at all.
KH: Neither does ETV Urdu come. Nor ETV Kannada.
AA: Have they closed down?
LK: The channels still exist, but they are not shown at all.
KH: Basically, the channels are there but the transmissions are not shown at all. They don't show ETV Urdu, or Kannada, or Telugu, or Marathi. They've completely boycotted ETV.
LK: ETV Kannada still has demand so they show it.
KH: Our area doesn't have a lot of Kannadigas so they don't show ETV
there. There's not a lot of demand for it in our area, but still there are some programs that we'd like to watch but they don't show it. So they are showing only those channels that are paying them. As I told you earlier they have become the gate keepers.
KH: Our efforts to ensure proper distribution of information and communication will bear no fruit till the time no action is taken against these MSOs.
LK: There is no government control. The pay channels that are coming may not have any demand. For example, Toon Disney. But since they are showing it, you have to pay whether you watch it or not.
KH: Toon Disney is a pay channel?
LK: Yes, it's a pay channel of Star. They've made it compulsory; because they're showing this channel, we have to pay. That's it. The public has no choice over what they are watching, they're just supposed to watch whatever these MSOs choose to show.
KH: These rules of the government mean nothing.
KH: Whether it is the TRAI regulations or the handbook it means nothing. This Cable Television Network Regulation Act 1995, it hold nothing. The guidelines are not clear, the laws are not clear,what is one supposed to do with this? You get no power, no authority. If something unjust is happening to you, whether you can file a case on someone or not. This tells you nothing. I don't know what they've written.
The conversation moves to the demand for pay channels, as well as the regularions set up by the TRAI.
KH: I have no idea. I think the government should make some strong rules and regulations. This needs to come under some ministry. Right now it comes under IT. What will IT do when what you're dealing with is broadcasting? When you have a ministry for broadcasting...
LK: We are not called broadcasters.
KH: We are not broadcasters but we deal with content, etc; we have a small role. Technologically we come under IT.
LK: I think we are service providers.
KH: See these people are service providers, but I provide service to them.
LK: This entertainment tax that they've levied on us should be levied on broadcasters.
KH: You are paying entertainment tax.
LK: Yes, they're levying it on us.
KH: But why? You are a service provider.
LK: Exactly, we are service providers. And that's the case going on right now.
Kashif discusses the need for broadcasting to have its own ministry.
LK: Entertainment Tax should be levied on advertisers, people who make programs, and broadcasters. So the MSOs wash their hand of it and tell cable operators to pay the tax. The state government has also conveniently levied the tax on us.
KH: At least they are the distributors. We are the service providers; we make the content and give it to them to supply. But there is no differentiation between them. The laws are same for both of them.
LK: It's the same law.
KH: What else?
The discussion revolves around the levying of Entertainment Tax.
KH: My channel was being shown on Siti Cable and Lokesh had Hathaway at that time. Our channel had a lot of demand in Shivajinagar. Hathaway was refusing to show my channel, so if I was to give it to Lokesh through Hari Prasad... Because he was the closest Siti Cable operator. Siti Cable gave me the go ahead for this. But when I went to Hari Prasad, he demanded to be paid ten thousand rupees a month to transmit our signals. Because there was a lot of demand for our channel in this area we agreed to his terms. From Lokesh's set up to Hari Prasad's...
LK: Almost 700 meters.
KH: We bought and installed 700 meters long wire. After three months, the wire got cut.
LK: Not even three months, almost two months.
KH: After two months they cut the connection and took the wire with them. The signal went, the pact didn't matter. I had even paid him twenty thousand rupees.
Kashif and Lokesh discuss the actions of Hari Prasad, a cable operator with Siti Cable.
LK: You paid Hari?
KH: Yes, I paid him for two months.
SA: But Lokesh, I want to redirect this argument. Your channel is running fine right now, you have your set ups in place, but you are managing to run a very amazing thing which is your own channel. Since you are not into content, you are basically showing people general entertainment because there is a demand for that. Elgin is screening old films; but when the people go home in the evening, there is the option of watching your channel.
LK: People don't have time to go to the theatres. So we show old films on our channel and people watch it at home.
KH: That's great.
The conversation is redirected to a discussion of Lokesh's channel.
Kashif and Lokesh discuss the government subsidies provided to the MSOs on the basis of their service to the public.
LK: Those people...
KH: The MSOs i.e. In Cable, Siti Cable and Hathaway, justify their rate hikes by saying that they've done a lot of wiring. But the truth is that they exist because of Government aid. They've been given subsidies, electricity lines, they've recently increased the rent. Otherwise they were charging them just Rs 10 per pole. When the cable operators first came on the scene, the government gave them a lot of subsidies because the government wanted an equal distribution of information and communication. The electric wires that they use are public property. How can they use it? They are not giving any service to the public, then how can they use the electric lines and the ground for laying down cables? That's my property, I'm the Public.
KH: Then how can they demand payment from me to transmit signals of a channel that is for public welfare? The government has given them aid and simplified the process of getting a license so that information is easily distributed. They have completely forgotten all of this. They are only concerned about the wiring they've installed. And even if they've done it they are making a lot of money. Aren't they earning, Loki?
KH: How many cable operators are there in Bangalore?
LK: Around about a thousand cable operators.
KH: There are about a thousand, or a thousand two hundred cable operators.
LK: a thousand two hundred cable operators.
KH: There are around one thousand two hundred cable operators all over Bangalore city. If we divide equally, then each MSO has around three to four hundred operators under them. They are easily making enough money to pay for the wire installations or any other expenditure. They have no right to demand money from us.
SA: So I was thinking...
The conversation continues in the same vein as before.
Lokesh discusses the possible fall out of the interview, and the solidarity of the MSOs against an outside threat.
SA: Lokesh, can you repeat yourself please?
LK: I show all the local issues on my channel. I'll put it on the channel and the public will see it. I'm just scared of it coming on NDTV, but all cable operators are scared of that. Even the ones with ten thousand connections are scared. I also fear it. Now the CD that she's making, it's totally fine if I show it on my channel. But if the same CD reaches Hathaway, they'll say, 'Loki is giving such an interview, lets pressurize him. How much is he paying right now? 30? Make it 40, or else cut his signal.' End of the day, all these MSOs are one and they'll decide not to give a link to me.
KH: And if all these MSOs gang up against you...
LK: If all of them refuse to give me a link, what will I do?
KH: Usually they have competitions amongst themselves, but when it comes to bigger issues they all unite.
SA: Because they can never come together then.
LK: That's the thing. If they increase our fee and we can't pay, they'll cut our connections and we can't even go to anyone else.
KH: That's what I'm saying. If this is shown in Lokesh's transmission and someone from Hathaway sees it, then he might start facing problems. Because we are not that strong, to be very frank. We have everything with us but...
LK: We are strong in our area but we are not strong in other areas.
SA: This is one monopoly and that's another.
LK: That monopoly is different, that's monopoly over Bangalore; this monopoly is only in Shivajinagar. That's why I asked Shaina why she's collecting this information. Where are you going to use this information that you are collecting?
SA: On your channel.
They continue to discuss the possible fall out from the interview itself, if it is broadcast.
LK: Apart from my channel, where else will you show it?
SA: Nowhere else.The CD will be with the person who's being filmed.
LK: That's what I'm saying...
SA: And you'll get an introduction from Jawahar and Lawrence once I leave. I've come from Bombay, so I'll make this program and then I'll go.These are networks that you are building with Lawrence...
LK: No, that's ok. Lawrence and Jawahar are no problem. If this CD stays with us, it is completely fine. But if it leaves...
KH: I don't have a problem, but Loki does. See I don't have a problem, I'm already fighting them, but I'm concerned about Loki.
LK: He's already in a fight.
SA: I'm saying that it will be a victory and a political triumph if we can put this on the airwaves.
KH: That's another matter, but it's a matter of risk. What will Loki do? I totally think we should support you, I'm there with you.
They discuss what would happen with regard to the CD the interview is recorded on.
LK: None of the other cable operators came ahead to do this. I just thought that I'll come to this meeting with Kashif and talk, if you want to give it outside, edit my thing and give it. That's it. The normal stuff you can show on my channel.
KH: Or do one thing, you can give it after disguising Loki's name and face.
LK: Yeah that will do.
SA: But your voice everyone will recognise.
SA: But your voice is so distinct. If the face is made invisible...
LK: Yes, that's enough.
KH: And wherever we take your name, Lokesh, we'll remove that bit too.
LK: Whenever the name Lokesh comes, cut that bit.
SA: I'm getting confused. Are you talking about the cable telecast on your channel or you're talking about the general scene?
LK: No, no. What I'm telling...
SA: Because this content is explosive, and it is important for you all to keep it as a tool also.
LK: No, no. We'll keep it as a tool. But what I'm saying is if this...
SA: Falls into the wrong hands...
LK: If it falls in someone else's hands...
The discussion moves to the need to disguise Lokesh's identity.
KH: Loki has a problem.
LK: He's already in a fight. Kashif Bhai
(brother) is fighting.
KH: I was about to put a PIL (Public Interest Law) also, the papers are all ready. I might have the file with me. No, I don't have the file. <Garbled> I have the PIL file, and two or three lawyers ran away in fear when they came to know that we're fighting against big cable operators. It's good that I'm getting a link with Jawahar, it's good for me. But Loki has a problem because his business will get affected.
LK: Yes my business will get affected. That's what I'm saying, there is no other reason. We can also fight if we want to. If Hathaway doesn't give me the link, In Cable might have; but they have a perfect understanding. They'll say you're thinking too much of yourself, you've shown this CD. So for a month things will be okay; after that, they will increase the rates for the pay channels and ask for a higher fee - they will try to pressurise me like this. I have dealt with this pressure in the beginning _________. But if I show this, they will one hundred percent push me out of this field within six months.
KH: Loki will face problems. If you want, you can remove his name and all from it.
Lokesh discusses the possible fall-out from his involvement in this candid discussion.
LK: If it's a VCD seller and he faces a problem, he'll just sell his VCDs, close the shutters and leave. I can't do that. I CAN'T do that. If the VCD seller faces some problem...
KH: The problem with the VCD seller is that he buys one CD, makes ten copies of it and keeps it in his shop. There are about ten percent of them who sell genuine stuff with copyright. But eighty to ninety percent... what problems will they face from the government in Bangalore?
SA: But the common man can buy it for thirty rupees.
KH: Yeah. But still, in my area he rents it out for five rupees a day.
In my area it's ten fifteen rupees. Fifteen... but we get it for five rupees. When it is five rupees, I won't buy it. I'll go to him. Another thing is DVDs, CDs are all gone now. You're getting a DVD player for two thousand five hundred rupees.
LK: Nowadays you can get DVDs for forty rupees.
KH: And you get three films in it.
LK: Three movies, so that falls to fifteen rupees a movie.
KH: Fifteen rupees a movie and excellent print.
LK: Excellent print.
Lokesh and Kashif discuss the continued piracy taking place with regard to DVDs
KH: And it has full the full movie.
LK: It has no cuts in the DVD.
SA: Sometimes it gets cut in the camera print.
KH: Yes, camera prints in DVDs are quite popular. But most of the time it is not. It's fine, the quality is at least better that of a VCD.
SA: I see. Now, let us just make some video cuts.
The conversation continues to revolve around video piracy.
LK: Now what is this when hundred operators_______. ________ earlier the entertainment tax was three thousand rupees, now it's become seven thousand five hundred rupees. So the operators are also getting fired up about these things and are meeting up to talk about it.
SA: Trying to come together.
LK: Yeah, yeah.
SA: Then you should involve them.
LK: That's what I'm saying. What I'm saying is...
SA: If you move the telecast, will they come?
LK: What I'm saying is, if the General secretary and the President of the union talk in front of the camera, it is no problem.
SA: That's official.
LK: That's official, because they are fighting for it.
Lokesh and Shaina discuss the possibility of uniting cable operators, such that changes in the system may be effected.
LK: But if I come in front of the camera, that will be a problem. If they come on camera and I stand beside them, it's still no problem. That's still okay.
(A lady at the door says something and leaves.)
AA: That's your mother? (laughs) Nice lady.
LK: Those people were talking on Doordarshan the other day, and there was no problem. If we people come in front of the camera directly, that's a problem.
KH: You just... Shaina, ask Loki about the problems of Cable. Have you already discussed it?
KH: You ask him. I've just told you about my problems. Ask Loki that as a cable operator, what problems does he face? Not only him, but in general, what are the problems of these people?
SA: And over the years...
Lokesh attempts to make clear the difference in effect between him as a small cable operator, and the directors of a board, when it comes to fighting the MSOs.
LK: I'll still try to contact two or three cable operators for the talk show.
KH: No Loki, don't worry. They'll edit your bits out.
LK: No, they can edit it...
SA: Seriously Lokesh, talk about these things. They are important. And that is the word independent. First of all there should be mutual trust, we are going to do whatever you tell us to with this footage. It will not be anything else, and that is the reality.
KH: No, Loki is saying that he'll arrange three more cable operators...
LK: That's what I'm saying. We'll get three other cable operators for the talk show. Before Jawahar comes from Delhi, we'll talk with the association. And if Jawahar and the association talk things out, it'll be very good for the cable operators. All operators, big or small, will benefit from it. If I talk about my problem, it'll be different from another person's problem. They might have different problems. I have collections in my area, maybe they don't.
Shaina attempts to convince Lokesh to further discuss his issues with the MSOs openly, while Lokesh suggests involving other cable operators in order to get a broader perspective.
LK: Their problems will be different from mine, and vice versa. Many of them won't have tax registration. They'll have their own personal issues and we can't interfere in that.
SA: That's true everyone has different problems.
LK: That's what I'm saying. If you want to film something about cable operators, the best thing is the association. And Jawahar knows everything about it. So when he comes, his discussion with the cable operator association will be quite good.
SA: This is your twenty five cable operators.
LK: No, it is all those thousand two hundred cable operators there.
KH: They have a union.
LK: A union association.
KH: But that association is only nominal.
LK: One week back there was a proper meeting happening. So if they would've done it then, it would have been great, because everyone there was discussing the problems being faced by them. So these people are late.
Shaina, Lokesh and Kashif discuss the association of cableoperators, and their possible participation in this issue (and recording.)
SA: But you know Lokesh, we went to Belandhur three days ago to interview one...
KH: Where is Belandhur?
SA: Belandhur lake? It's after Koramangalam.
KH: Okay. Cipla...
SA: There we met this ex-chairman of the Gram Panchayat
(local goverment), Jaganathan. He has done lots of work and he's been fighting against Infosys and all this land grabbing that's happening.
LK: Yes, land grabbing.
SA: Before that he was the first person to digitise governance to those five Panchayats
(village governments) in that area. And what they did their Gram Panchayat
meetings weekly would go live on cable TV.
KH: Yeah, excellent.
SA: And that was same. For transparency, right to information, they would read their accounts, their tally.
KH: That was my content. The same thing used to happen in my channel. We used to have live news everyday, the local happenings; we used to have lots and lots of debates, discussions right from political, economical, social... all in Urdu. All this used to happen. If you want, I'll show you the CDs.
Shaina recounts having visited an ex- chairman of a Gram Panchayat
, and discussing his decision to digitise meeting of the various Panchayats
KH: Then I used to do a song based, live program each Sunday from 11am to 1pm.
KH: Yes, singing. That means just call up and request the song.
LK: It's been three months. Since the time that Suroor TV has been a little dull, but even today, whenever there is a local program happening, they'll call Suroor TV.
KH: Since we used to say that our people don't read the paper, we used to have a program called Akhbaron Se
(from newspapers) everyday. In it, the two anchors would take the headlines of the papers and they used to discuss all the newspapers in Urdu, English. They would say that this is written in one and this is written in another, and these colleges are having a call for, this is their problem. They would read the whole paper and then discuss selected topics so that people would get to know about it.
SA: So it wasn't just news reading.
KH: See, news reading is different. This had discussion and news also.
LK: And that too in the common language. They would talk in a language that common people would understand.
Kashif discusses the programmes he used to show on Suroor TV. Here he discusses the news programme that used to run, called Akhbaron Se.
KH: The language spoken here is Dakhani Urdu, so alot of our programs were in this language. The motive was that the common man understands it. If I speak in the Urdu from Lucknow, or in hi-fi Urdu, he won't understand anything.
AA: So what's happening in Suroor nowadays?
KH: It's closed nowadays. It's been closed for the past three months because of the cable operators.
LK: Not because of cable operators.
KH: Not because of cable operators, because of MSOs. People used to really like those programs also. Women would have their own programs, because being Muslim community women they have many issues. Because some people say that they should be educated and some are against it. We used to get lots of women working in NGOs...
AA: See? This is what is important.
KH: This is what is important.
AA: We talk about reform in the community; this is a way. So in a way the government should support this rather than...
The discussion moves to the current state of Suroor TV, and its previous potential as a medium for social reform.
KH: We made a lot of programs on health and education. Like NGOs used to have these programs, like the polio drop drive; we used to cover that and we used to show it. We used to cover the programs that were organised by the local leaders and social organisations, and show it. So they used to get encouraged when they would see that; they would feel that we're not alone, everybody is supporting us. Everybody would get to know about their cause. All this used to happen, but is not happening anymore.
SA: What editing equipment do you use for Suroor TV?
KH: Pinnacle Software.
SA: Pinnacle, on the PC? That also must be a joke nowadays. Who uses original software nowadays?
KH: No, we have original software.
SA: Because of the card.
KH: Exactly. See, for Pinnacle, you need to have the hardware device.
SA: Even I had a Matrox.
KH: Edition 5th. We are using two softwares.
Kashif discusses the programmes covered by Suroor TV, as well as the software that he used in the editing of the same.
KH: For video editing...
LK: If you would've had support, you would have reached Kargil in two years.
KH: That's the reason my Dad and I have taken the final decision to not beat our heads against these people. We're planning to go satellite now.
KS: We're working on it.
SA: And how would that happen? I mean, I have no clue.
KS: Right now... Give me the list of details. We are kind of getting tied up with this DDTTH, the direct to home. And you have other platforms like Zee DTH, or Star DTH.
AA: But you can do your own programming?
KS: Everything we can do. The technology previously...
AA: It's much more expensive?
KS: It's much, much cheaper now. Around five years back, if you were gong satellite, you had to shell out around twenty to twenty-five crores monthly. Now it's come down like anything. You hardly have to spend around five to ten lacs, or lesser than that. This has a bouquet, I don't have to do the transmission. My signal will go to Delhi from here through an OFC; it will go to Doordarshan and then be uptaken.
Kashif discusses the possibility of going digital with Suroor TV, thereby completely eliminating the need to work with MSOs.
KH: So I don't have to beat my head due to someone else's bullshitting, taking the tapes back and forth.
AA: So Doordarshan will do it.
KH: Because I'm using the Doordarshan DTH platform; if I tie up with Zee TV, they will do it for me. The good thing about Doordarshan DTH is that it's free of cost.
LK: It's free of cost and it'll reach all the villagers.
KH: It's free of cost because Zee TV is charging something. The only problem is with DTH Set Top Box which is a little expensive right now. But in another six months you'll see. Inbuilt DTH's have already arrived. Doordarshan will come in free.
Kashif dicusses his move to the Doordarshan
Kashif discusses the changes that are going to take place for local cable providers, especially thanks to the revolution occasioned by Optic Fiber Cables
SA: But that means... What is the future of even a local cable provider then?
KH: It'll be excellent for local cable providers. Tomorrow it will become so cheap. The way I'm working things out in Bangalore right now... Today I'm dependent on these MSOs, tomorrow I will go satellite and go home - it'll become so cheap. I'll be able to hire a satellite, I'll be able to up link only for Bangalore city. That's what I'm saying. Even for local, I'll go online. The other good thing is digitisation - it's called OFC, optic cable fiber. It will help us a lot now. Previously, if I had to send my signal to Delhi to be up inked, I had to hire another satellite which would have taken my signal and send it to Doordarshan, and it would have been up linked then. Now because of OFCs - various companies have done it - my signal goes to Delhi instantly. One hundred percent quality.
AA: So when do you think you'll start?
KH: I've applied for the license. I've spoken about the DTH. I just have to get the license.