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Expats in Abu Dhabi seek fair deal on satellite TV

Expats in Abu Dhabi seek fair deal on satellite TV

Expats who left their home country for better opportunities in the UAE feel that they are more detached from their home after stricter regulations on the use of satellite dishes.

By Jasmine Al Kuttab

Published: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 1:36 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:09 PM

Photo by Sayed Hameeduddin Quadri 

Abu Dhabi - Stricter regulations — including Dh2,000 fine — on the use of satellite dishes has slightly affected their prime mode of entertainment, say residents of Abu Dhabi.

According to the Abu Dhabi Municipality, installing illegal dishes on rooftops, walls and balconies spoils the image of the city.

“These dishes, which one can see piled on roof tops from certain areas of the capital, affect the appearance of Abu Dhabi,” it said, adding that, “we want to maintain an uncluttered and tidy appearance”.

However, expats who left their home country for better opportunities in the UAE feel that they are more detached from their home.

“I know that the lack of television channels might not seem like a big deal for some, but for me, these channels connected me to my home country. Now I just feel further away,” a resident said on condition of anonymity.

The crackdown on illegal satellite dishes in the UAE’s capital has been an ongoing concern, for both the authorities, as well as residents.

The municipality had previously issued a notice alerting landlords that only four satellite dishes may be installed on a building rooftop, which has been recently enforced by law, with a penalty of Dh2,000 for those who don’t comply.

The regulations have made watching TV slightly more difficult for some residents, in particular, expatriates. They suggest and call for a registered satellite provider, that can cater to their taste and needs.

Indian expatriates complain that they were able to receive a wider selection of channels for a more affordable price, than those offered by current official satellite providers.

One resident, on the condition of anonymity, told Khaleej Times that he is unhappy with the rules and it has affected the way he and his family watch TV. 

“We don’t receive the Indian channels anymore,” adding that, “actually, we rarely watch TV nowadays, because we simply don’t enjoy it like before.”

Not only that, but residents also believe that the thriving market for illegal satellite dishes was mainly because it is affordable and provides extensive number of channels.

“It doesn’t seem very fair,” he said, adding that, “most of my friends and I used to pay less than the fraction of the price, compared to what we have to pay now for services offered by the local providers.”

Managing payments for legal satellite dishes may, therefore, become tough, especially for those who have little income.

“Now it seems extremely difficult paying for such expensive bills with our little salary, but there’s nothing we can really do.”

Another expat, remaining anonymous, also told Khaleej Times that he is unable to afford what the current satellite providers offer.

“A few years ago we only paid Dh50 and received hundreds of channels, but now they expect us to pay hundreds of dirhams for only a few channels.”

The municipality, however, said that residents often install satellite dishes and once they move to another apartment they keep the old dish installed.

“Sometimes satellite dishes clutter the rooftops of buildings because residents move from one home to another without moving their dish. In general this blemishes and spoils the look of our city.”

David Butorac, CEO of OSN, the region’s leading pay-TV network, in an exclusive chat with Khaleej Times said that illegal TV services is a serious issue and he is pleased with the authorities’ decision to crack down on cases of piracy.

“According to industry reports, TV piracy costs the industry over $500 million every year in addition to affecting the growth of the creative and TV industry,” he said, adding that “South Asian services Dish TV, TataSky, Sun Direct, Airtel and Reliance decoders are all illegal in the Mena region.”

Butorac also points out that OSN works closely with government agencies to detect illegal satellite dish providers.

Expats, however, say that if current providers like OSN and Etisalat, are able to cater to their needs by providing a wider selection of channels with lower prices, then they will opt for their services.

“These service providers have channels that I am not interested in, and the basic packages have channels mainly in Arabic language, which I cannot understand,” the expat resident said.

Nonetheless, Abu Dhabi’s Municipality stands by their vision on preserving an orderly appearance of the nation’s capital and therefore urge the populace to cooperate with the rules to maintain the aesthetic appearance of Abu Dhabi. — jasmine@khaleejtimes.com

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