The government suffers a loss of about Tk 50 crore every year from the cable networks operation sector, as most of the cable operators do not renew licences regularly.
Bangladesh Television (BTV), a state-owned TV station, is authorised to issue licences and collect renewal fees under the Cable Television Networks Operation Act-2006, Section-38.
According to the Licence Office, there are 2,000 registered cable and feed network operators throughout the country. A registered operator has to renew licence after every two years paying Tk one lakh to the BTV. Fee is a little less in the rural areas.
Sources in BTV said that more than 8,000 feed and cable operators are operating their networks illegally without licence.
"If most operators received licences and renewed those regularly, the BTV could earn Tk 50 crore every year from this sector, sources said.
The government has fixed the date for renewal of licences from January 1 to April 30. So far some 900 operators complied with the Bangladesh Television schedule for renewal till March 31, said Mohammad Mashuk Miah, Assistant Licence Officer of the BTV.
He said, "If at least 80 per cent operators among the registered two thousand renew licences this year, the fees may go up Tk 10 crore."
"We have shortage of manpower to monitor. So, we cannot realise fees from all registered operators and take action against unauthorised ones," an officer of BTV said seeking not be named.
"If any child does not cry, its mother will not feed. The same example can be set for the sector. Taking advantage of our weakness, the licence holders act as per their whim," he said and added that after four officers went on retirement, they were facing more difficulties than before. He said although they have the power to take action against the unauthorised users, very little can be done.
The ownership of the cable networks change with the change of government. "This is also a problem on the way to realise fees and dues," he said.
Mir Hossain Akhter, owner of Joy Enterprise at Shiddeswari, Dhaka, did not renew his licence since 2008. The due against Hossain Akhter is Tk 300,000.
Mir Hossain is also operating another cable networks in the name of Mega at New DOHS under Mohakhali without any licence, sources said.
He has alleged link with the Indian Star Group and ten other Indian channels, they added.
Contacted, Mir Hossain told The Daily Observer on Saturday that he was not interested to talk over phone. "Please come to my office for details," he said.
When asked, Mashuk Miah admitted the fact and said that a man on his behalf came to us and promised to pay the dues before the expiry of the deadline.
Meanwhile, some former leaders of Cable Operators Association of Bangladesh (COAB) told The Daily Observer on Saturday that the cable operators were not getting any security of their investment or their lives from Cable Television Networks Operation Act-2006 and Cable Television Networks Operation (Amendment) Act- 2010.
Terming the law as contradictory, they said that the law discourages cable operators from renewing of their licences, one of them said.
Kazi Barno, former Joint Secretary General of Cable Operators Association of Bangladesh (COAB) and founding President of Mukto Dhara Foundation told The Daily Observer that he filed a writ petition with the High Court to ensure the security of cable operators' investment and lives and to reform the existing laws.
According to the petition, only seven people will get licences in Dhaka and Chittagong cities. Only five persons each will get licences in Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Rangpur, Barisal, Narayangang and Gazipur city corporation areas.
Some four persons will get licences for 'Ka Class' municipalities, three for 'Kha' municipalities, two for 'Gha' municipalities and union levels will get two licences.
If the government ensures this licensing system, it will not count further loss, Kazi Barno said.
Abdul Mannan, Director General (DG) of Bangladesh Television, could not be contacted despite repeated phone calls.
Md Nuruzzaman, Director (Administration) of BTV, admitted the poor response to licence renewal every year.
"As we have shortage of manpower, we cannot monitor well. This is one of the reasons behind the poor response," he said.