A MODEL IN CO-OPERATIVE FELLOWSHIP
COA ( Cable Tv Operators Association) , the first of its kind in the country is an extensive organisation formed by the self employed small scale cable operators of Kerala. It marks a revolutionary and extra ordinary stride in the world of cable TV distribution in India. Began as an attempt to sustain the business models of the small operators in the state, today it has become a shining role model in co-operative business ventures, collective resistance and strategic modernisation in the hitherto unorganised world of cable TV.
Cable TV distribution started in a big way in Kerala in the beginning of the 1990s. Today it has become ubiquitous as electricity and telephone lines, reaching every nook and corner of the state. What led to the explosive growth in the business model was achieved through the encouragement and protection accorded to the new venturists in the business by COA, through the cooperative model. The necessity to constantly upgrade the technology in the field initially prompted the need for a union. But by the middle of the 90s, it became a dire necessity to face the multiple challenges the business faced, like the onslaught by the MSOs, the skyrocketing rates of the pay channels and the partiality and coercive attitudes of the state electricity board. Soon COA grew into a organisation with district level committees in each district and area committees functioning under them. Presently, COA has 72 area committees with 40 operators under them, district committees above them and a state committee as an apex body. The executive committee headed by an efficient leadership runs the day to day functioning of the organistaion. The state committee has sub-committees to look into each problem area and implement solutions.The district level committees control the district level administrations and supervise the functioning of the local area committees, which in turn impart all informations to the member operators. COA has a membership of 3000 across the state at present.
The cable network in Kerala has a unique business model. The networks that worked as single units initially formed local head ends by the end of the 90s. In a few years, these local head ends joined together to form a vaster and wider network of operators, forming district level units. The capital and the infra structure required for all these operations were contributed by the individual operators. These organizations slowly took the shape of professionally managed companies with every individual being a share holder. The state level body, KCCL, is the offspring of this collective movement. Each of these movements, big or small, was taken up under the watchful eyes and guidance of COA, and their constitutions, democratic functioning, projects and leadership all come under its surveillance.
The cable TV business operations and the relationship between the state committee member to the COA member are well defined and strong. Every cable TV Operator who is a COA member abides by the rules of the business at the organisational and business levels and is aware that these rules are imperative to the success of his business. It is this amalgamation of the business and organisation that marks the success of COA.
COA conducts a varied range of activities every year. The Mega Cable Fest which we started in 2002 is one of the most important and watched out for exhibitions in the whole country and uniquely in South India. We conduct state level and district level gift schemes to attract new customers. COA conducts week long state level campaigns that consist of processions and public meetings to raise public awareness against the invasions of large scale MSOs and to protest the various unjust rules and regulations of the centre and state governments. Cable TV Operators are regularly trained in the use of the latest technology under our guidance. Protests and strikes against the unfriendly business policies of the government and the electricity board, resistance to the unjustifiable increase in rates by the pay channels are all some of the many episodes in the history of COA.
It was the capital of one crore collected exclusively from the members of COA that laid the foundations of KCCL in 2006. Launched in 2006 with a capital of one crore, this organization today has a capital of 50 crores and and provides job assurance to 60,000 people directly or indirectly.Its present networth is 400 crores and already has an approval to raise its capital to 100 crores.
Kerala Vision is the first project to be launched by KCCL. It is the first channel to be launched across a state in the IPTV format in India. Kerala Vision channel that has news and various entertainment programmes is also the brand name for the small scale cable distributors.
The second project to be launched by KCCL is Kerala Vision Digital TV. KCCL is able to provide the small cable TV distributor with world class technology to achieve complete digitisation. Every cable operator who is a member of COA, including those in the difficult terrains of Idukki and Wayanad mountain districts are able to receive digital signals through their distribution head ends. The largest service providers like Railtel Corporation of India, Tata Tele services, KSEB and reputed manufacturers, Ericsson, Thomson, Arries, Nagra Vision, Conax AS, Logic Eastern, Coship. MyBox, Changhong Etc support KCCL for providing services to its customers.
In a scenario where the complete digitisation rules threaten the very existence of Indian LMOs, KCCL is an MSO that operates without the LMO-MSO differentiation and is a saviour of the operators. KCCL provides the operator with the necessary training, exhibitions and financial assitance they require. Even though KCCL is an independent business body, the policy formations and control of this body lies soleley with COA.
One of the most important characteristics of the cable TV network in Kerala is the existence of local TV channels. Of the 160 odd TV channels working under COA, more than 70 give prominence to news and news related programmes. They have news bulletins focussing on the local problems, achievements and announcements. These channels encourage unknown talents and introduce the local celebrities and leaders to the public. They also function as the voice of the general public by raising the issues of corruption and injustice in public life. There are local channels that carry more than 10 news bulletins daily, with standards to match any satellite channels. The local channels work as an alternate media for the Kerala public. The popularity of these channels that carry every nuance and emotion of the people of the state and has touched the pulse of its public life has prevented the invasion by the other MSOs and DTH Operators to a great extent. The role of COA in the growth of the local channels is crucial. COA imparts expert training, introduces latest technologies and helps with content sharing. Channel co -orodination committees for the policy making and consolidated functioning of the local channels function under the COA.
COA takes active interest in public welfare activities too. We work along with Blood Donors Forum and Kidney Federation of India to reach out to the public. COA make considerable contributions towards education through the local COA committees. Distribution of clothes and educational aids like books for students from poor families are some of our regular activities. There are committees who have been conducting functions to felicitate students who score high grades for the last ten years. Some of the local committees have been able to accumulate lakhs of rupees as contributions to help poor and helpless patients. Environemental degradation,pollution,waste management,and disaster management are some issues where the local committees have made considerable contributions.
COA, with its far sightedness, have taken steps well in advance for co-ordinating like minded Associations, thus south Indian co-ordination for association has been formed a decade ago. Like minded The Association presently called South Indian MSO Alliance ( SIMA), comprising of Independent MSO’s from Tamilnadu, Pondicherry, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh ( Presently called as Andhrapradesh and Telengana) for safeguarding the interests of the such MSO’s that support LMO’s.
COA is an elaborate network of 3000 operators who provide services to more than half of Kerala and about 2 million subscribers.In comparison to other states, COA has been able to resist the onslaught of MSOs and create a healthy business atmosphere to the cable operators of Kerala. The withdrawl of the luxury tax by the state government and keeping a check on pay channel rates, thereby making cable TV services cheap and affordable in the state are among some of the proud achievements of the COA. “ A local alternative to corporate invasions” is our slogan. The functioning of KCCL and the local channels are focussed on making it come true. The most democratic and widespread network in the state, the COA is committed to provide to its subscribers, the latest and the best services available today.