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TV services of 3 OTT platforms blocked without notice

Several OTT operators, content provider agencies and broadcast material distributors have verified the suspension of services.

However, insiders state that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) are unaware of this.

OTT operators reported that their linear TV services were abruptly shut down last Tuesday night. After contacting the distributor and content provider agency, they were informed that they would no longer be allowed to offer TV services to OTT platforms.

Talking to reporters, Bangladesh Cellphone Subscribers Association President Mohiuddin Ahmed said, “The OTT policy has not yet been formulated in the country. While the draft policy is still being prepared, internet-based platforms have been shut down to serve the interests of some opportunists hiding in the government.”

He said, “All the televisions sold in the country’s market are internet-based. The OTT platforms brought some relief amid dish-line traders’ non-cooperation and dishonest behaviour. We think it is intentional to shut down the OTT platform when the customer can conduct all their activities on a device.

“OTT customers buy various premium packages to use this platform. The operators have already collected advance money from the customers for these packages. Now customers are suffering financially and mentally from being unable to see these platforms.”

bongobd is a popular OTT platform in Bangladesh, owned by bongo. Another OTT platform called bioscope is owned by Grameenphone Limited, while Binge is owned by Robi Axiata Limited, and Toffee is owned by Banglalink Digital Communications. Currently, these platforms have a combined subscriber base of around 30 million.

An official of the BTRC has confirmed that there was no restriction on the operation of OTT operators.

On condition of anonymity, the official said, “If the BTRC had wanted to shut down the OTT platforms, all types of services would have been stopped. Maybe the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting can do it.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a meeting was held at the secretariat to take legal action to stop the illegal broadcasting of local and foreign television channels.

After the conference at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, State Minister Mohammad Ali Arafat said that only legal cable and DTH operators can reach the feed of government-approved local and foreign TV channels.

“If anyone else does this, it is illegal. The government will take legal action to stop this activity,” he said.

Arafat said, “Because of this illegal work, the government loses revenue and money is siphoned abroad in various ways. At the same time, there is an opportunity to disrupt the country’s security. The government and the people of Bangladesh are being harmed by those who are showing channels illegally through illegal set-top boxes, showing channels with advertisements arbitrarily without arranging clean feed.

“In this case, the government will take legal action through the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology and BTRC.”

Banglalink Digital Communications’ Head of Corporate Communications Gazi Tawhid Ahmed said, “Banglalink’s Toffee platform has entertainment and sports content and streams live TV in Bangladesh, which has been very popular among the people of the country for the last few years.

“However, on Saturday, without any notice or discussion, the feed for TV channels was stopped for Toffee and other OTT platforms. This will impact millions of viewers who watch live TV on the go.”

He added, “It is unfortunate that this decision was taken just before the Eid holidays when millions will be on the road to their homes. However, it is surprising that this has been implemented only for local OTTs, whereas the TV channels are open for foreign OTTs.”

“As viewership decreases on these local platforms, this will also negatively affect the taxes earned by the government. We are also surprised that this decision was taken when the OTT guidelines were being drafted through the order of the Honourable High Court.

“Therefore, we urge a reconsideration of the decision for the benefit of all in line with the Smart Bangladesh vision,” Tawhid said. Businesspostbd

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