JEDDAH — In a significant development in the fight against copyright piracy, Saudi authorities are clamping down on illegal cable networks that operate mainly in close-knit worker accommodations.
Not only the accommodations of low-paid workers but also residential compounds where highly paid expatriates live have internal private TV networks that transmit signals through Cox cables to subscribers.
The Ministry of Information and Culture, which is responsible for safeguarding intellectual property rights, has started inspection campaigns targeting these illegal cable networks backed by security forces.
The inspection teams arrested a Bangladeshi expatriate who had been operating an illegal cable network in the Batha area of Riyadh by allegedly decrypting signals of legal broadcasters. The man catered mainly to Bangladeshi workers living in the area.
Downtown Batha is a hub of south Asian expatriates, with Bangladeshis being the dominant ethnic community.
The inspections teams also found a group of expatriates transmitting TV signals to various homes in the vicinity through cables laid out on the roofs after charging a monthly fee ranging from SR30 to SR50 from each viewer.
The illegal cable operators were using sophisticated equipment to boost the signals, according to officials.
Based on the lead received from the Batha raid, the inspection teams belonging to the copyright division of the Ministry of Information and Culture swooped on different areas of the capital.
The inspectors raided several large accommodation complexes in Tahmama close to the Airport Road where significant numbers of Bangladeshi expatriates lived.
In some accommodations, especially those housing workers of cleaning companies, cable operators had been forcing residents to subscribe to their networks, the workers complained.
Though there are several well-established TV channel distribution companies operating in the Kingdom targeting the huge south Asian community, their content is limited and selected, and does not cover all language segments.
Not only that, many of the low-paid workers cannot afford individual subscriptions of official networks to receive the content of their choice, and the illegal operators have been taking advantage of this.