UAE court orders shutdown of ‘illegal’ distributor of India’s Dish TV

Abu Dhabi shop selling unauthorized subscriptions to Indian TV service is slapped with $55k fine

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A shop in Abu Dhabi that sold illegal subscriptions to India’s Dish TV has been slapped with a Dh200,000 ($55,000) fine and ordered to close for a year, according to a UAE-based television network.

The manager of the shop, which has not been named, was ordered to leave the country under the Abu Dhabi Court ruling, the pay-TV network OSN said.

Regional media experts welcomed the move, which comes as mainstream Arab broadcasters continue to fight endemic piracy and the use of illegal TV decoders, part of a problem said to cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) conducted a raid at the Abu Dhabi shop after OSN complained about sales of Dish TV subscriptions and set-top boxes, the broadcaster said.

Evidence of illegal provision of TV content was presented before the Abu Dhabi Court, which made its ruling. The judgment is subject to appeal, which has to be filed within 14 days.

“We are thankful to the CID and the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department for their swift and stern action that will dissuade operators and distributors of illegal TV services,” said David Butorac, chief executive of OSN, in a statement.

“The court verdict reiterates the seriousness with which the government regards TV piracy. We will continue to work with the authorities to curb TV piracy, which adversely impacts the TV and creative industry of the UAE.”

There have been 47 such raids of hotels, shops and camps by UAE authorities following complaints filed by OSN, the broadcaster said.

Signals broadcast by the likes of Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct and Tata Sky can be picked up in the UAE and other parts of the Middle East, but are not licensed for broadcast in the region.

Thousands of UAE residents are believed to illegally tune into such networks, which charge a fraction of the price as the country’s licensed pay-TV operators.

The cost of a Dish TV subscription featuring 270 channels and services is about $3.74 a month, according to the network’s website. The OSN Pehla Prime package, which is geared towards South Asian viewers and has 68 channels, costs $37.84 a month

Ali Ajouz, a Dubai-based media consultant, welcomed the move to close the Abu Dhabi shop - but said the industry has a long way to go in fighting piracy, including illegal movie downloads.

“This is a fantastic first step against a form of piracy that has been going on for many years. This sets a precedent and now those shops dealing in piracy know the potential consequence of their actions,” Ajouz told Al Arabiya News.

“However, this is a first step and more is needed against many other forms of piracy including the proliferation of [‘over-the-top’] set-top boxes, illegal online channel streaming through dedicated websites and of course torrent downloads.”

Several media owners and satellite operators have joined forces to fight rampant piracy in the Middle East.

Estimates of the cost of the problem vary wildly, with some executives saying piracy costs the Arab media industry about $100 million a year, while others claim the figure could be as high as $500 million.

Aside from the illegal reception of legitimate networks such as Dish TV, the industry has also been plagued by pirate stations that illegally broadcast copyrighted material.

Infographic: The cost of piracy

Infographic: The cost of piracy
Infographic: The cost of piracy

It emerged in November that 47 such stations - representing about half the pirate stations active in the Arab world - had been taken off air following a campaign by mainstream media companies.

Sam Barnett, chief executive of MBC Group, said at the time that the activities of the pirate channels amount to “organized crime.”

Alleged pirate channels that were prevented from broadcasting include CRT Cinema, Hollywood Stars and Top Movies, Barnett said in November.

The Al Arabiya News Channel and this website are part of MBC Group, the region’s largest TV broadcaster.

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