Highlights — 21 February 2018 — by Micah Goodin
HBO “bringing down the hammer” on Belizean cable consumers

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 19, 2018– If you have cable television at home there is a possibility that you may no longer be allowed to watch Lifetime, Cinemax, Sci-Fi or any of the 14 channels that are a part of the Home Box Office (HBO) package.

That is because executives at the anti-piracy and commercial divisions of HBO, an American premium cable and satellite television network owned by Time Warner, visited Belize last week demanding compensation for the broadcast of their channels in Belize.

If cable providers decline to cover costs for the package, the channels may no longer be available to their subscribers.

Today, our newspaper spoke to the general manager at the Channel Broadcasting Corporation of Belize Ltd. (CBC), Vanessa Peyrefitte.

While Belize has long enjoyed pirated cable for decades, Peyrefitte told our newspaper that the enforcement of copyright laws in Belize will force the nature of the cable industry to change from community-based television to more tiered packages that suit more individualized tastes.

She said that CBC is committed to becoming more copyright-compliant, but in so doing, it will increase CBC’s operational costs.

She conceded that the costs proposed by HBO at the meeting were higher than what cable providers had anticipated.

“The cost is not what we were vying for…it is higher than what we wanted to pay,” she explained.

When asked if consumers who are already paying CBC $47 monthly would have to absorb those costs imposed by HBO, she was unable to give a definitive response, but she did say that it was a possibility that all consumers of all cable companies would have to consider.

“We’ve been getting a free ride to some extent,” she said, while maintaining that rates for cable subscription were low in Belize when compared regionally and internationally.

Amandala was unable to get a comment from the chief executive officer at Central Cable Vision because he is out of the country, but we did speak to the president of the Belize Cable TV Operators Association, Evan Tench.

Tench explained that negotiations with executives at HBO had been ongoing for almost three years. However, they have not yet signed off on any agreement. He explained that when HBO made a proposal for $8 US monthly per household, Belize counter-proposed.

And so, in the next few weeks, HBO will make a new proposal.

When asked whether the association had concerns that other channels would also request compensation, Tench agreed that that was a possibility.

However, he indicated that Belize was already paying for several channels. For example, we signed an agreement with the Turner Network, which includes channels like TNT, PBS, CNN, etc., he said.

“We’ve also signed an agreement with Aljazeera and EWTN”, he said, adding that additionally, “we are in the process of re-signing with the Discovery Channel”.

Like Peyrefitte, Tench explained that Belize must honor copyright agreements.

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