Side Views

Astro, give some respect to your customers please! — Art Harun

May 03, 2012

MAY 3 — This post is prompted by Astro’s chop-job of BBC news report as shown here.

The Malaysian Insider later reported that BBC had strongly condemned Astro’s move. A BBC spokesman was quoted as saying:

“During the week of World Press Freedom Day, it would be deplorable if access to independent and impartial news was being prevented in any way. We would strongly condemn any blocking of the trusted news that we broadcast around the world including via distribution partners.”

In response, Astro was reported to have said that the news report was subjected to a chop-job by Astro to “suit local rules.” No details or particulars of the said local rules were given by Astro.

I am a subscriber of Astro. In fact, I not only have one account, but two.

Generally, I must say I quite like Astro, particularly the sports, documentary and of course the international news sections. The movie section sucks big time. Astro must be the only television channel in the whole civilised world that is still showing “Missing In Action 1,2 and 3”. And “Death Wish” too. I would rather stare at a blank TV monitor rather than watch these movies, dear Astro.

This is a screen shot (left) of the terms of my subscription contract with Astro. Don’t bother reading it. It is one of the most lopsided agreements this side of the universe. Basically, the agreement says I should pay Astro to subscribe certain packages. On the other hand, Astro is in effect not obliged or responsible to provide any kind of service whatsoever.

If this agreement is governed by English law, it might be challenged under the Unfair Contracts Terms Act 1977. But well, Malaysia does not have that kind of Act of law. We are more concerned with same-sex shagging and the likes. Consumerism is not very important here. So we have big corporations riding roughshod over consumer rights and the like. Who cares, right? You have got the choice of not subscribing if you are not happy, right? So, sod off!

Essentially, what the terms of my subscription with Astro provide are as follows:

● I pay to watch programmes under certain packages

● Astro can revise the programmes anytime it likes

● Astro can also revise the amount I have to pay anytime

● Astro is not responsible nor liable for any interruption, suspension or termination of the services for any reason whatsoever

And this takes the cake:

● “Astro makes no warranties or representations whatsoever with respect to the content of the programming included in the Services, in particular Astro does not guarantee the sequence, accuracy, completeness, timeliness or the security of any data or information contained in the Services.”

So, on the literal interpretation of the terms of subscription, we all pay fees to Astro and Astro doesn’t have to provide nuts to us. Astro is not responsible for anything under the agreement.

Granted.

Astro says in the agreement that it makes no warranty or representation with respect to the “accuracy or completeness” of the content of the programming.

Does that mean, if we watch the BBC channel on Astro, Astro can show the Kenyan’s news channel instead of BBC regardless of the fact that that channel is known as the BBC News Channel? On a quick reading and without employing some kind of intelligence, yes, it appears to be so.

So, Astro can do a chop-job on any BBC news report and shove it into our throat like some Lords shoving hot molten iron into some peasant’s throat in medieval time, right?

NO!

First of all, Astro may not have made any warranty or representation about the content in the agreement. But Astro does make a warranty and/or representation about the BBC News Channel and every other channel on its website and flyers. On BBC News Channel, this is what Astro warrants and/or represents:

“BBC World

Channel 512

BBC World News, the BBC´s commercially funded international 24-hour news and information channel, is owned and operated by BBC World News Ltd, a member of the BBC´s commercial group of companies. BBC World News attracts 74 million viewers a week, is available in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, and reaches 292 million households and more than 1.7 million hotel rooms. The channel´s content is also available on 81 cruise ships, 46 airlines, 35 mobile phone networks and a number of major online platforms including bbc.com/news. For further information on how to receive BBC World News, download schedules or find out more about the channel, visit bbcworldnews.com.”

This is the screen shot (right).

Basically, although Astro does not make any kind of warranty or representation in the subscription agreement, it does give all of us expectations that the BBC News that Astro is providing us is the one which is produced by, in its own words, the “BBC World News, the BBC´s commercially funded international 24-hour news and information channel, is owned and operated by BBC World News Ltd, a member of the BBC´s commercial group of companies.”

Further, although Astro is at pains (in its subscription agreement) to emphasise that it is not responsible for the “accuracy” or “completeness” of any of its data or content, Astro surely does not have the legal right to deliberately or intentionally distort, misrepresent or alter the content without the consent or at the very least, knowledge, of its customers.

The censorship or chop-job by Astro of the relevant BBC news report amounts to just that, namely, the alteration or modification of a report which was published by Astro as the original and true report. If that was not a misrepresentation or a distortion, tell me what is.

The least Astrio could have done was to put a notice when that particular report was being aired to the effect that the clip was being censored, changed, altered or modified (call it whatever and howsoever you may like). That would let your customers know that what you are showing is not the original report.

At least, treat your customers with some respect! They pay you for God’s sake!

In Malaysia, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, respects copyrights and intellectual properties. Piracy is everywhere and for all to see. Pirated video games, movies and songs are sold everywhere. Watches, handbags, shoes and you name it, they are everywhere.

It is of much concern that private individuals do not respect copyrights. But when a huge corporation gives scant respect to an original production by chopping it as it pleases and passing it as the original production without notice to its customers, that is really sick!

Astro’s purported explanation, to the effect that the report was chopped-up to “suit local rules”, is at most laudable for its efforts and laughable for its insult on our intelligence. What local regulations? Please show us.

If a news report does not suit local rules, the right thing to do is not to air it at all. If you have to air it, air it in full. And if you wanted to air it with modification, then by any means tell your customers that the report is not the original one, at the very least. Professional courtesy also demands Astro to at least inform BBC about it.

As for Minister Datuk Seri Utama Rais Yatim’s statement that the report shown by Astro shows the “best parts” of the news, well, I am not going to say anything about it. I will let the viewers make their own conclusion.

While Astro chopped a BBC news in order to show its “best parts”, The Star yesterday surely showed the “best parts” of local news. And without any chop-job too if I may add. The Star had even seen it fit to provide the links to the blogs which carry the so-called sex pictures.

The Star must be the first ever “people’s paper” in the whole world to have provided links to alleged sex pictures of a politician.

Congratulations The Star. You have achieved a new standard in responsible reporting.

You deserve a Pulickzer. — art-harun.blogspot.com

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.