Gross disrespect from Karib Cable – PM
October 12, 2012
Gross disrespect from Karib Cable – PM

Cable television provider Karib Cable has been warned that if they do not improve their service to Vincentians, investors will be actively sought, to give them competition in this market.{{more}}

The warning was issued by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday, as a made a ministerial statement before Parliament.

He said he considers it “gross disrespect” that the telecommunications company changed its channel line up without an explanation to Vincentians. He also said that the service provided by the company to its consumers in neighbouring St Lucia, is “far superior” to what is being offered in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I join with the overwhelming majority of subscribers to Karib Cable to express my ministry’s dissatisfaction and the government’s dissatisfaction … with the way in which Karib Cable has altered its offerings for which people have paid, without properly advising or informing them about any alteration,” Gonsalves, who is Minister of Telecommunications said, to loud applause from those present in the House.

On October 1, HBO Latin America Group (LAG) and Karib Cable announced that both companies had signed an agreement for the transmission of the HBO LAG channels.

Under the agreement, Karib Cable now broadcasts the HBO/MAX as a Premium package which includes eight channels: HBO, HBO Plus, HBO Signature, HBO Family, HBO (East), Max, Max HD and Max Prime.

The cable company has also added Sony Entertainment Television, Sony SPIN, AXN, E!, and Warner Channel channels to their line up, at no additional cost to subscribers. Those new channels have replaced channel’s 15, 16 and 17 (HBO, Showtime, and Starz) — the three movie channels previously available for customers who subscribed to the basic package.

The Prime Minister said he has looked at a comparison between what Karib Cable offers in St Lucia and here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and considers that St Lucia is receiving “far superior” service.

The basic package in SVG costs $74.75, while in St. Lucia, the price is $80.49 (both VAT inclusive). However, in St. Lucia, there are 100 channels in the basic package, compared with only 74 the local basic package, the Prime Minister said.

“I put it in the public domain and for Karib Cable’s management to understand that the government is taking note of this and we are very serious in pursuing this matter within appropriate regulatory and other frameworks. We consider it gross disrespect, apart from anything else, that you just change your channels on people with no explanation whatsoever. If you have a valid explanation tell us and you will have to do some recompense,” the Telecommunications Minister said.

“… In fact, 21 of the 48 [channels], which are in our premium are in St. Lucia’s basic [package]. For which we have to pay. Remember this, we have to pay additional monies for the premium. The remaining 27 channels out of this 48, which are in St. Lucia’s basic, are neither in our basic or our premium. So that St. Lucia is being given a far superior service in their basic. And what we are getting in our premium, substantially, St. Lucia is getting in their basic.

“So it turns out far cheaper for them. This has to stop, this has to stop!” the Prime Minister said to loud applause.

He said he has asked Apollo Knights, Director of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) and Dr Jerrol Thompson, Director of Telecommunications to speak with Karib Cable on the matter.

He however said that on Tuesday evening, he got a message that Kelly Glass, Managing Director and Founder of Karib Cable had been trying to reach him. He said that he was unable to do so on Wednesday, as he had Cabinet, but was willing to meet with him during the lunch break yesterday (Thursday) if Glass was available.

The Prime Minister said if Karib Cable does not make changes, he is “going to actively ask for some investors to get involved with a competition channel”.

He said a licence had been given to telecommunication company LIME for a cable service, but they are “apparently not interested in going further”.

The Prime Minister added that he is sure “the regulators will entertain an appropriate licence from somebody else in relation to this matter”.

He said while he likes Glass, the matter is not one of friendship.

“He is a good investor, but surely, this is unacceptable and I have to speak out on behalf of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“… In the final analysis, the market will determine the outcome,” the Prime Minister said.