DAP MPs to seek
meeting with Ananda Krishnan to ask him to suspend the RM5 monthly (or RM60
annual) increase of Astro subscription rate until review by Astro viewers
Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): DAP MPs will seek a meeting with tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan, whose Usaha Tegas Group is the largest shareholder of Astro, holding 42 per cent of the shareholding, to ask him to suspend the RM5 monthly (RM60 annual) increase of Astro subscription rate until after consultation with Astro viewers.
Ananda Krishnan should set a model of responsible corporate citizenship and good corporate governance by suspending the increase of RM5 a month (or RM60 a year) Astro subscription rate on Monday until consultation with Astro viewers for two reasons: firstly, Astro holds the monopoly of pay television in Malaysia; and secondly Astro is a GLC (Government-linked company) with Khazanah holding 22% of Astro shares.
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 on Friday 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 and furthermore, the status of Astro as a GLC.
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.
I call on Ananda Krishnan to suspend the increase of the RM5 Astro monthly subscription rate set to begin tomorrow (24th May), 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 tomorrow until there is full consultation with the Astro subscribers.
I have asked the MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yeow, MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok and MP for Bukit Bintang, Fong Kui Lun whose portfolios overlap pertaining to the controversy over the hike of Astro subscription fees to jointly establish a committee, which should not be confined to DAP MPs or members and should include professionals, to study in greater depth the many ramifications of the various issues highlighted by the nation-wide uproar. Abdul Kadir has said that the Astro price hike issue involved three ministries, namely Ministry of Information, Ministry of Internal Security and the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications. Kadir overlooked at least one other Ministry – the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.
Chow’s portfolio responsibilities among DAP MPs are information, science, technology, local government and heritage; Teresa’s portfolios are housing, energy, water and communications while Fong’s responsibilities are finance and economy.
The Parliamentary caucus on the Astro price hike controversy should go beyond the issue of Astro price hike and it should consider the various issues highlighted by the controversy, including”
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman