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Viewers sulk as Bangladesh shuts foreign TV channels

The move is in line with a government directive to stop airing foreign channels without clean feed

Viewers sulk as Bangladesh shuts foreign TV channels

People watching television at a tea stall in Rajshahi district of Bangladesh. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

Cable operators in Bangladesh have shut down all foreign television channels from Oct. 1 after they failed to air clean feed or advertisement-free programs, robbing the viewers of entertainment.

“I do housework during day time and watch Bengali channels of India in the evenings. Now I have nothing to do,” complained Francisca Palma, a 70-year-old housewife.

She said the decision by the government was not right as there were no quality entertainment channels available in the country. “It would have been better if they had set up our own channel first rather than shutting down foreign channels,” Palma told UCA News.

According to the Cable Operators' Association, there are more than 100 foreign channels including prominent names like BBC, Al-Jazeera, CNN, various sports channels and Indian entertainment channels with a viewership of about 15 million.

With no provision for the domestic distributors and operators to exclude advertisements from the foreign channels, the country was losing precious revenue. They stopped broadcasting after instructions from the government, said Anwar Parvez, leader of the association.

“Shutting down Indian channels or those from other counties that used to entertain us is not a solution,” said Shawon Costa, a 23-year-old university student in Dhaka.

Now we have to rely on domestic channels where foreign news does not find priority

He said the government should have found ways to air the foreign channels without the advertisements.

Bishop James Romen Boiragi, chairman of the commission for social communication of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, said he used to regularly watch the news on BBC and CNN and misses it.

“Now we have to rely on domestic channels where foreign news does not find priority,” Bishop Boiragi told UCA News.

Bangladesh Information and Broadcasting Minister Hassan Mahmoud told the media that the country’s law does not allow foreign advertisements as is the case in many countries including India, Pakistan and Britain. Both the foreign channels and the local operators must abide by the country’s law to broadcast clean feed, said the minister.

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Bangladesh has 36 domestic television channels of which four are state-owned. Many viewers are hoping that the foreign channels will soon start providing clean feed to Bangladesh.

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