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NTC in a tight legal bind over pay-TV piracy--official
 
THE NATIONAL Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has said that it is willing to help foreign pay-television operators counter reported rampant signal piracy in the Philippines but says it is hampered by legal issues.

A report by Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), a group representing some 110 Asia-based corporations, said that the NTC has not done anything to stop signal piracy in the country.

Sought for comment, Jorge Sarmiento, deputy commissioner of NTC, said: "There is a pending case before the Court of Appeals filed by a cable TV operator that says NTC has no jurisdiction to hear cable TV piracy cases."

In a text message to INQ7.net, Sarmiento said that the NTC is drafting an agreement with the Intellectual Property Office to address the "issue of jurisdiction."

The CASBAA report stated that "the most problematic aspect of the situation in the Philippines is the tacit toleration of rampant intellectual property piracy."

It added that the NTC lacked independence from powerful local interest groups.

The report said unchecked intellectual property violations through signal piracy has stunted the growth of Philippine pay television and cost the industry 70 million US dollars in 2005.

Sarmiento said that the NTC has a pending request with CASBAA, wherein the government agency has asked members of the group to submit to its jurisdiction, even on a "partial" basis.

"If CASBAA has problems with local cable TV operators, they ask for our help. But if the local operators have problems with CASBAA members, CASBAA will say NTC has no jurisdiction over their members who are foreign content providers. We're now awaiting their position on this," Sarmiento said.

The CASBAA report said the NTC lacked a clear mandate and resources to enforce the laws on intellectual property.

"The development of the subscription television industry has been stunted by its inability to secure protection of its programming content," it added.

The report, "'Regulating for Growth: The Philippines," said stronger intellectual property protection laws could stimulate more investment in pay TV in the Philippines.

Data from CASBAA indicated that the Asia Pacific pay-TV industry lost about 1.06 billion US dollars last year due to piracy up from 952 million in 2004 with the local Philippine industry losing 70 million dollars.

Over the last 15 years the Asia-Pacific pay-TV market has grown into an industry, which in 2004 generated revenues of some 15 billion dollars, the report said . "The Philippines is lagging many other Asian markets in terms of investment and infrastructure and technology," the report said.

"While other countries are rapidly seeing the advantages of digital delivery systems and moving towards high-definition television, the Philippines pay-TV infrastructure is in many communities outdated and stagnating."



 
By Erwin Lemuel Oliva

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