Call on Ananda
Krishnan to suspend the RM5 monthly (or RM60 annual) increase of Astro
subscription rate on Monday until a review by Astro viewers consultative
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday): I call on tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan, whose Usaha Tegas Group is the largest shareholder of Astro, holding 42 per cent of the shareholding, to set a model of responsible corporate citizenship and suspend the increase of RM5 a month (or RM60 a month) Astro subscription rate on Monday until after consultation with Astro viewers.
Such a commitment to good corporate governance is all the more appropriate as Astro holds the monopoly of pay television in Malaysia.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in denying the claim of his Information Minister, Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir that the Cabinet had directed an investigation into Astro’s proposed RM5 hike in subscription fees from Monday and its programming content, said yesterday that the government would not interfere in the controversy over the increase in Astro subscription rate as it was an issue for the Astro subscribers to decide.
Abdullah is right in putting his Information Minister in his proper place, but wrong in completely washing the government’s hands from the Astro subscription rate increase controversy, as it is the government which has given Astro the monopoly.
The government has a duty to consider ending the monopoly by liberalizing and even deregulating broadcasting to allow for more television channels and more pay television operators if Astro is not prepared to act as a responsible corporate citizen, particularly one exercising monopoly, by first consulting the views of the Astro subscribers in view of the nationwide uproar over the proposed increase.
As Astro stands to add RM83 million to its annual sales with the RM5 monthly subscription rate increase given its subscriber base of 1.39 million people, this hike is not chicken-feed which could be totally disregarded by the government.
Ananda Krishnan should suspend the increase of the RM5 Astro monthly subscription rate set to begin on Monday, and instead set up an Astro viewers consultative council so that the views of the subscribers, both with regard to the subscription rate increase and programming, could be sought and considered before any final decision is made.
I hope all Cabinet Ministers as well as Members of Parliament in the current parliamentary meeting will support the proposal that Astro suspend its proposed subscription rate increase on Monday until there is full consultation with the Astro subscribers.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman