Cablegate: Bdg to Allow Resumption of Etv Television Channel

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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On April 12, the BDG cleared the Ekushey
Television (ETV) application for a fresh license to resume
operation after the Supreme Court ordered its closure two
years ago. The BDG also gave clearances for two more TV
channels owned, respectively, by two ruling party
legislators. ETV, which once had U.S. equity, is likely to
go on the air after the Bangladesh Telecommunication
Regulatory Commission (BTRC) issues the license and the BDG
returns the equipment it seized after the closure. End

2. (SBU) On April 12, the BDG issued a "No Objection
Certificate" to the issuance of a new license to ETV, the
first private TV channel in Bangladesh. It began
terrestrial and satellite broadcasts on March 8, 2000, but
was shut down after a Supreme Court order on August 29,
2002, citing irregularities in its licensing process. ETV
had ended the BDG monopoly in the electronic media and
earned popularity among viewers. ETV officials viewed the
channel's shutdown as motivated by politics, because ETV was
viewed as pro-Awami League and modern, and commercial
rivalry, since a new station owned by a PMO insider was
getting started.

3. (U) In December 2002, ETV leadership changed following a
transfer of shares. A U.S. investment company, Waterford,
reportedly retains 15 percent of the shares.

4. (SBU) On April 12, ETV chairman Abdus Salam told us that
he persuaded BDG to give him a license by promising to PM
Zia's influential son Tarique not to make partisan use of
the TV channel.

5. (SBU) Information Secretary Dr. Mahbubur Rahman Morshed
told us he acted on instructions from "multiple
authorities," apparently meaning the PMO and Tarique's
office known as "Hawa Bhaban." Morshed said the ministry
has also cleared for licensing two more TV channels --
Boishakhi, owned by Housing and Public Works Minister Mirza
Abbas, and National Television, owned by BNP MP Mosaddeq
Ali, also known as Falu. A former Political Secretary to
the PM, Falu already operates the NTV channel. Morshed said
about 50 more applications for licenses, mostly from ruling
BNP leaders, are still pending with his ministry.


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