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I refer to the letter Astro suffering from monopoly syndrome . As consumers, I suggest we act simply but effectively against Astro pay TV's 'monopoly syndrome' and service fee increase.

Here's what can do: we can trim off one or two Astro subscription packages; we can telephone or e-mail to protest its price increase in June, its attempt to charge for free-to-air satellite programmes, and its sneaky advertisements; and we can demand that the government liberalise C-band, large dish, satellite reception, as well as local cable TV companies.

Here are steps that can make a difference in the next few weeks. I'm not asking you to totally boycott Astro - at least not until we have more alternatives.

  1. You can telephone Astro to cancel one or two less-viewed packages.

Do you know that you only need to subscribe to two Astro mini packages now, rather than three mini packages? In the past, we were forced to subscribe to a minimum of three packages if we want to subscribe to the News (Channel 90s) or Learning (Ch. 50s) packages. But Astro has recently quietly reduced this requirement to a minimum of two. This is probably because Astro has realised its price is getting unaffordable and irritating to customers (stock analysts covering Astro please take note). See Astro prices here .

So we can now trim off that unneeded channel and save RM5 to RM38 a month, and, more importantly, send a protest message to Astro. For example, if your children have grown up or you are worried about mind-numbing cartoons, call Astro at 1-300-82-3838 to drop the 'Fun' packages (Channels 60s and save RM5 to RM15).

If your teenagers have gone to college and you are not a sports or soap opera fan, cut off the Sports package (Ch 80s; save RM7 to RM17) or the Variety package (Ch 70s; save RM5 to RM15). If you are too successful in your life you are probably too busy to watch old movies, why not cut off one of these: 'Movie' or 'Emperor' packages? (Ch 40s and Ch 30s; save RM5 to RM38 on Movies; save RM25 to RM34 a month by cancelling either 'Emperor' or 'Dynasty'). There is a range in savings because it costs more for a basic subscription to add the next package.

You can always call again to re-subscribe any of these channels. It is time to clear out your old Astro subscription packages. Why pay more to finance a monopoly?

  • You can telephone, e-mail and fax Astro to protest their 15% price hike in June.
  • Instead of raising prices, Astro should be reducing prices now that it has reached the economies of scale, thanks to its customers' support! ( see price revision announcement here )

    Even if you do not cancel any Astro packages, you can still express your dissatisfaction to these Astro contacts:

    Tel: 1-300-82-3838 (local call rate)

    Fax: 03-9543-7333

    Email: [email protected]

    A simple and courteous protest letter might look like this:

    'TO: Astro, Rohana Rozhan, CEO

    REF: Protest against Astro price increase in June 2007

    I strongly express my dissatisfaction that Astro has raised its prices recently. Astro should instead reduce its prices now that it has achieved greater economies of scale.


    (Your name and optionally your Astro car number or account number)'

  • You can protest the attempt to charge for free-to-air satellite TVs.
  • Do you know that Astro may move its 'New Channels' under paid packages? Some of these are free-to-air satellite programmes in other countries, such as CCTV.

    Astro may charge for these 'New Channels' after August - Channels 9 Astro Aruna; 20 Al Jazeera English; 21 Zee; 22 TV 9; 23 Astro Kirana; 24 Astro Ceria; 25 Animax; 26 BBC Entertainment; 27 ETTV Asia; 28 CCTV 4; 29 WaTV; 35 Jia Yu Channel; 53 Discovery Science; 77 Discovery Home & Health; 78 Discovery Real Time; 76 E!; 83 Golf Channel; 84 Eurosport; 74 Astro Vellitherai; 75 Sun Music. ( Check it out here )

    True, it costs Astro to carry the signal on its own satellite, and some other channels may not be free satellite TV programmess. Which is why we consumers must use this opportunity to demand that the government liberalise private satellite antennae usage, and break Astro's monopoly. Other companies may carry the signal more cheaply.

    I telephoned Astro on July 13, and the staff said Astro hasn't made up its mind about how these new channels will be packaged and charged. Strange, considering it had announced some packaging arrangement before. Either Astro is hiding its intention until after the 'magical' month of August with a possible general election, or it is watching the reaction from consumers to its price hike.

    If we are too quiet, we'll get stuffed with more bills and fewer choices. Telephone Astro now and cancel some packages to protest, before it's too late.

  • Free up private large satellite dish usage (C-band).
  • We, the consumers, must also demand that our members of parliament support, and the government carry out, the liberalisation of private satellite reception, and the legalisation of C-band (large dish antennae) satellite reception. Astro uses the small 'ku-band' satellite dish that is easily disrupted by rainstorms. Why should Malaysians fall behind Indonesians and Thailand?

    Once liberalised, Malaysian residents, especially those in apartments, will learn to install multiple and electronically-controlled large dishes, signal amplifiers, and internal wiring to deliver low cost satellite TV to homes.

  • Free up local cable TVs.
  • Local cable TV stations are feasible, like a video versions of that old-timer Rediffusion. We must demand that the government legalise local cable TV stations. Privately-owned local cable TV stations can download free-to-air satellites programmes, then redistribute them to the local community at a cheap cost via cable.

    This delivery model has been proven feasible 30-50 years ago in Malaysia by Rediffusion, which used cable to deliver audio programmes to any home that subscribed to it. So long as Malaysia's parliament makes rational laws, the judiciary is fair, and the police uphold legal decisions effectively, there should be no problem monitoring and regulating such a service industry, and protecting intellectual properties.

    Although the government has legalised another pay-TV, MiTV, it is suspended due to the costly nationwide investment requirement. It will be cheaper to break up the pay/cable TV market into local clusters. This will also lay the ground work for the true spread of broadband Internet access.

    Conclusion? In the short term, let us cancel a few non-essential Astro packages. For the medium term, we need to let Astro know our disapproval of its ads and charging for free-to-air satellite programmes. For the long term, we need to pressure the government to liberalise private C-band satellite reception and local cable companies.