Fri, Jan 07, 2000 - Page 12 News List

Better service, not more channels

Ho Jung-hsing

Many Taipei citizens are finding, to their amazement, that the first light that dawned at the beginning of the millennium not only took away an old era; it also removed popular, acclaimed cable TV channels such as HBO.

At the same time, we are seeing several new illegal channels appearing in the guise of "signal testing" even though they are airing commercials.

The impunity of cable operators, who ignore viewers' rights and toy with double standards, appears especially ugly at the beginning of a new millennium.

Without any warning, the cable TV operators have once again started their annual "musical chairs" game, shifting their channels around to up the ante at the bargaining table against channel agents.

Complaints have begun to flow into the Taipei City Government's information department, saying popular programmers like HBO, Cinemax and Sun Movie have either been moved onto channels with relatively poor signal resolution, or simply disappeared.

Even more ironic is the fact that the cable operators have started cashing in on advertising on the new programming running under "signal testing" before they have completed the legal applications for such channels.

Yet at the same time, cable operators are lashing out at channel programming agents for demanding exorbitant prices.

Cable operators have always claimed that Taiwan's cable TV system offers the largest number of channels at the lowest price. They also use this as their rationale in the annual battle to raise subscription rates.

However, what other country's cable operators get so puffed up for cramming so many poor-quality channels into their systems?

What other country's cable operators shift the cost of a vicious "half-a-year's subscrip-tion-at-NT$1" price war, as well as the cost of setting up fiber-optic networks for a hundred-billion-dollar future market, onto the shoulders of their viewers?

When will Taipei's viewers truly wake up and unite for a class action offensive against these businesses that trample so viciously on consumer rights?

Ho Jung-hsing is chief of the city desk at the Liberty Times.

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