Consumer rights advocates yesterday called on the government to lower the cap for cable TV subscription fees from NT$600 to NT$400 per month to protect customers from abuse by service operators.
The proposal was made at a public hearing on changes to cable TV subscription fees organized by the National Communications Commission (NCC).
Representatives of the cable service industry and local government officials attended the hearing.
NCC Communications Management Director Huang Ching-yi (黃金益) said the commission decided to launch a comprehensive review of cable subscription fees because the fee was set in 2000 and faces rising challenges in an age of digital convergence.
The fee-setting mechanism has hardly been changed in the past 10 years, he said.
“During this period, the cable service industry has faced mounting competition from IPTV [Internet-protocol television],” Huang said. “Consumers are dissatisfied with the ‘status quo,’ in which each cable service area has only one service operator. An increasing number of new service operators want to expand their operations by branching out into highly populated areas, including New Taipei City (新北市) and the four other special municipalities.”
“The Executive Yuan has set the goal of raising the cable TV service penetration rate to 100 percent by 2014. We want to hear from different parties to help us determine the scope of adjustment [in subscription fees],” he said.
Consumer Foundation deputy secretary-general Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男) said the foundation proposed lowering the subscription fee cap from NT$600 a month to NT$400 a month.
“According to research by Academia Sinica research fellow Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉), cable operators have been enjoying gross profit margins of 40 percent. The margin even rose to 44.5 percent last year. The NCC has been allowing the cable operators to reap huge profits from cable TV services and ignoring the interests of consumers,” he said.
Lin said profits from cable TV services were not equally shared between cable service operators and channel operators. Because of this, consumers are forced to watch many low-quality programs and reruns, he said.
Some people said cable service operators should not lower fees because they need money to provide a digital cable TV service, but Lin said that was only an excuse.
“If a digital cable service could be made available by robbing consumers, there should be a digital cable service already,” Lin said. “The goal of digital convergence should not be used to rationalize abusing consumers.”
In response, TWM Broadband assistant manager Yang Chu-huang (楊据煌) said that many people did not know that the production cost of digital content was three times higher than that of analog content.
“What the NCC and government should consider is how they want the nation’s cultural, creative and other industries to grow and develop after the digital cable service becomes available,” Yang said. “[The NCC] should focus on making digital cable service available. The adjustment to cable service subscription fees can wait.”
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