Written by Yong Yen Nie   
Thursday, 03 September 2009 10:50

KUALA LUMPUR: ASTRO ALL ASIA NETWORKS PLC [] (Astro) said it has “regular and ongoing discussions with regulators with regard to the development of the local media industry”, and these talks include issues pertaining to the migration of its operating licence.

The company was responding, in a statement issued yesterday evening, to an earlier news report that said the information, communications and culture ministry was reviewing Astro’s exclusive 20-year operating licence, and had wanted Astro to include more government-friendly programmes.

News portal The Malaysian Insider reported earlier yesterday that there was a review on Astro’s licence as it had “several run-ins with the ministry” over its content, with government officials “grumbling that opposition politicians get better airplay in several channels”.

Subsequently, Reuters quoted an unnamed government official, who is familiar with the ministry’s plans, dismissing the political tune in The Malaysian Insider news report. The newswire also quoted a second unnamed government official as saying that talks relating to Astro’s licence were actually “to regulate its operations, not for political control”. The discussions included Astro’s ability to raise prices without reference to the government, the official was quoted as saying.

Separately, Reuters quoted an Astro spokeswoman as saying the company was in talks on migration to a new licence, but added that there had been no pressure to change content.

Astro has an exclusive licence until 2017 for satellite direct-to-home (DTH) transmission in the country. It is understood that the so-called review on Astro’s operating licence came about because the company is required to migrate its licence to the current Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA). Astro’s licence was issued in 1997 under two Acts— the Telecommunications Act and Broadcasting Act, which were repealed and replaced by the CMA.

In the statement, Astro’s chief executive officer Rohana Rozhan said among Astro’s ongoing talks with regulators was its migration to the CMA “subject to all existing rights and privileges to be retained”.

Other discussions include “enabling under-served markets through initiatives like ‘Kampus Astro bersama Komuniti Sekolah’, the seeding and promotion of local content creation and Malaysian talents, as well as broadening Astro’s products and services”, she said.

Astro fell five sen to RM3.40 yesterday, with 612,500 shares changing hands.


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