Lopez Holdings


Beyond Cable Disputes Charges of Monopoly and Signal Distortion
Beyond Cable Holdings Inc. has denied charges of monopoly and signal distortion made by GMA Network Inc. Beyond Cable was organized to consolidate shareholder interests in Central CATV Inc. (SKYCable), Philippine HomeCable Holdings Inc. (HomeCable) and 51% of Pilipino Cable Corporation (PCC).

"We operate in a very competitive environment," said Gerardo H. Ramiro, Beyond Cable general counsel and spokesman. He explained that "There is no foundation for GMA 7's claims. Off-air TV still accounts for more viewers among Metro Manila households. We cannot be considered as a monopoly since even on a consolidated basis we only account for about 10% of TV homes in Metro Manila and an even smaller 5% nationwide."

Nonetheless, Ramiro mentioned that GMA 7 should not resort to baseless accusations against the cable companies. "We do not tamper with the signals of the off-air stations as we have always treated them fairly but without sacrificing our business and customers". He debunked claims of signal distortion earlier made by GMA7 against PCC. GMA7 submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission video recordings of its shows allegedly recorded from PCC's transmission. It later accused PCC of being part of a larger monopoly that changed the cable channel assignment of GMA7 from channel 12 to channel 14, supposedly resulting in a dip in GMA7 ratings in February 2003.

GMA 7's video recording was taken from its own Marilao, Bulacan facility in December 2002, way before the change in cable channel assignments. In addition, field tests undertaken by the PCC Engineering Group in March 2003 showed that the "signal levels of GMA7 are within technical standards set for cable television operators."

"In other words, there was no signal distortion, either deliberate as insinuated by GMA7 or as a result of any channel changes. ABS-CBN, ABC 5, NBN 4, RPN 9 and IBC 13 all moved to higher channel assignments and none of them complained. RPN 9 was formerly in the channel 14 slot and it never complained of signal distortions. Further, we gave our legitimate subscribers sufficient notice of the changes. We therefore reiterate that there is nothing wrong with the cable signal, that there is no deliberate attempt to distort any off-air TV signal, and that the channel assignments were done in accordance with NTC regulations. Be that as it may, we are presently studying our legal options to seek redress against these baseless accusations " said Ramiro.

He added that market researches conducted show that among the most highly viewed off-air channels in the system are ABS-CBN and GMA 7, as well as cable channels Cinema One and HBO. "It is to the cable operator's best interests to give these channels the best spots for a clear signal. We are committed to keep our legitimate customers satisfied and they will complain if the signal we provide them is distorted. Besides, NTC will bear down on us if the signals are not in accordance with technical standards. It does not make sense for us to do what GMA 7 is falsely accusing us. "

He also said that the causes of problems in reception could range from a simple unfastened connector to an envious neighbor splitting a cable from a legitimate subscriber so he can enjoy cable TV without paying for subscription fees. Obviously, these acts that could cause technical problems on the system are not deliberate actions of the cable operator, as GMA claims them to be.

Ramiro said that with SKYCable and HomeCable having only less than 200,000 legitimate and paying subscribers out of the estimated 2 million TV homes in Metro Manila, these cable operators are in no position to influence GMA7's ratings and thus cannot be blamed for any decline in such ratings.

A recent survey showed that even in Cebu and Davao, GMA 7 lost ground in the ratings game. This further shows that GMA 7's accusations are baseless as there were no channel changes effected in these areas.  

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Lopez Holdings Corporation 
16/F North Tower, Rockwell Business Center Sheridan, Sheridan St. corner United St., 1550 Bgy. Highway Hills, Mandaluyong City, Philippines

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