Authorities clamp down on satellite TV piracy

GCC ANTI-PIRACY authorities plan to step up a clampdown on bars and hotels involved in the unlicensed use of satellite TV channels, Arabian Business can reveal. The move forms part of ongoing efforts to reduce ‘signal theft,' which still costs the region’s legitimate TV providers millions of dollars a year.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  May 22, 2005

GCC ANTI-PIRACY authorities plan to step up a clampdown on bars and hotels involved in the unlicensed use of satellite TV channels, Arabian Business can reveal. The move forms part of ongoing efforts to reduce ‘signal theft,' which still costs the region’s legitimate TV providers millions of dollars a year. Entertainment venues around the region are illegally accessing Multichoice, a legitimate South African platform provider because the signal overlaps into the GCC. The illicit practice involves the use of a Direct to Home (DTH) smart card, meant for use in South Africa, which allows the user to access all of Multichoice's channels — including much sought after sport stations. “Multichoice is a legitimate platform provider just like Showtime, Star TV, ART or Orbit and it has the rights for the African continent, but not for the GCC,” Scott Butler, CEO of the Arabian Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAA) told Arabian Business. “However, because the footprint of the satellite overlaps into the GCC you can receive it here with a Multichoice card. It affects all four platform providers and it’s still there,” he added. The practice reached its peak in the UAE around four years ago when almost every hotel and bar in the country was broadcasting Multichoice without authorisation. Despite many warnings from different authorities the practise is still widespread in the UAE. “The Ministry of Information has ordered many bars to cease and desist broadcasting Multichoice. The police have also become involved and have given administrative warnings to bars showing it, but there are those that still persist in violating the copyright laws,” said Butler. “Word has spread because an expatriate pub manager was arrested for broadcasting Multichoice and is currently going through criminal litigation,” he added. The misuse of the South African smart cards continues to have a negative impact on all of the GCC platform providers. The broadcast of Multichoice’s Super Sport channels affects Star TVs cricket coverage, Showtime’s rugby programming, ART’s football broadcasts and Orbit’s ESPN channel. “What they are doing is illegal and it is costing companies like us a lot of money. It is also costing the customers. We have informed the authorities and they are clamping down on it,” said Humaid Rashid Sahoo, CEO, E-Vision. “Anyone who is found to be using the service faces criminal prosecution. My advice to people thinking of doing it is don’t do it, because we will found out who you are and there will be serious consequences. This whole thing is illegal and everyone should be aware of that,” he added. The unlawful broadcast of Multichoice not only eats into the potential revenue streams of legitimate GCC platform providers, but means that Multichoice loses out because rogue GCC outlets receive the signal without paying. “Our focal point is hotels and bars because Showtime, Star TV, ART and Orbit can’t sell their products into the bars because they have Multichoice,” explained Butler. “Meanwhile, Multichoice isn’t getting any revenue out of this and isn’t being paid what it should be. Bars should be paying around US$15,000 per annum for this product,” he added. UAE authorities are expected to begin a public awareness campaign next month.

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