Cable operators reportedly suspended their services on Monday in various parts of the country following a strike call after refusal from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to postpone the auction of Direct-to-Home (DTH) service licences.

Cable services in various parts of Karachi, Lahore, Gujrat, Peshawar and Multan were suspended in the afternoon while in Islamabad they were suspended around 6pm in the evening.

However, in Balochistan's capital Quetta cable networks remained up and running and there was no termination of services.

Pemra had announced the plan to start auctioning of licences for DTH services across Pakistan on November 23.

Following which the cable operators gave a call to shut down their services for indefinite period as a protest against failure of Pemra to meet their demands.

The operators recently also met with Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who reportedly refused to agree to their demands.

Citizens all over the country, who are facing the suspension, are frustrated over revocation of access to information and entertainment.

Zohaib Omer, a resident of Islamabad, termed the termination of cable services as "illegal and wrong".

"Government should look into the issue to solve it. The cable operators should also show some flexibility as access to improved quality DTH is my right," said Omer.

Omaid Malik from Lahore also expressed similar views regarding the termination of cable services.

"Consumers have the right to watch the content they like and the right of choosing the medium. DTH provides better quality and more option of content, it should be the discretion of the consumer to choose the content he/she wants to watch, not Pemra," said Omaid.

Naheed Israr from Karachi was of the view that cable operators have taken us hostage for fulfilment of their demands from the federal government.

"It feels like every institution and corporation in Pakistan does not consider us respectable citizen and same goes for cable operators who have held us hostage," she said.

A cable operator in Karachi, Raheel Khan, told Dawn.com that they have suspended their services over the "illegal and immoral attitude of Pemra".

The representative of Karachi's Crown Cable Network was of the view that cable operators will suffer huge losses due to Pemra's plan of auctioning DTH licence. "Pemra is trying to appease a group of people by allotting them DTH licences."

"Recently we have introduced Digital Box service on the directives of Pemra, which offers 250 channels and customers can subscribe to channels they want to see, but the customers are not ready for such service yet," Raheel Khan maintained.

Unlike the traditional cable connections, DTH service is a digital setup that broadcasts channels directly to homes from satellite using small dish antennas.

On November 15, Cable Operators Association chairman Khalid Arain had said that the launch of DTH was not justified since cable operators have invested billions of rupees in converting the analogue cable system into the digital one.

“It will ruin our business and cause a huge economic loss,” he had said.

According to Arain, they need at least three years to create awareness among the people about cable digitalisation. The sudden introduction of DTH will not provide us the opportunity to promote it, he said.

Pemra on November 12 shortlisted 12 companies for participation in the first auction on November 23 for DTH service licences.

The shortlisted companies are:

  • Orient Electronics (Lah­ore)
  • Mag Entertainment (Lah­ore)
  • Skyflix (Islamabad)
  • Startimes Communications (Islamabad)
  • Sardar Builders (Islamabad)
  • Smart Sky (Islamabad)
  • Parus Media and Broadcast (Islamabad)
  • Naya Tel (Islamabad)
  • Maestro Media Distribution (Islamabad)
  • Sha­h­zad Sky (Islamabad)
  • HB DTH (Islamabad)
  • IQ Communications (Karachi)