DAP MPs to seek meeting with Ananda Krishnan to ask him to  suspend the RM5 monthly (or RM60 annual)  increase of  Astro subscription rate until  review by Astro viewers consultative council

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Sunday): DAP MPs will seek a meeting with  tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan, whose Usaha Tegas Group is the largest shareholder of Astro, holding  42 per cent of the shareholding, to ask him to suspend the RM5 monthly (RM60 annual) increase of Astro subscription rate until after consultation with Astro viewers. 

Ananda Krishnan should set a model of responsible corporate citizenship  and good corporate governance by  suspending  the increase of RM5 a month (or RM60 a year) Astro subscription rate on Monday until consultation with Astro viewers for two reasons: firstly, Astro holds the monopoly of pay television in Malaysia; and secondly Astro is a GLC (Government-linked company) with Khazanah holding 22% of Astro shares. 

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in denying the claim of his Information Minister, Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir that the Cabinet had directed an investigation into  Astro’s proposed RM5 hike in subscription fees from Monday and its programming content, said on Friday  that the government would not interfere in the controversy over the increase in  Astro subscription rate as it was an issue for the Astro subscribers to decide. 

Abdullah is right in putting his Information Minister in his proper  place, but wrong in completely washing the government’s  hands from the Astro subscription rate increase controversy, as it is the government which has given Astro the monopoly and furthermore, the status of Astro as a GLC. 

The government has a duty to consider ending the monopoly by liberalizing and even deregulating broadcasting to allow for more television channels and more pay television operators  if Astro is not prepared to act as a responsible corporate citizen, particularly one exercising monopoly, by first  consulting the views of the Astro subscribers in view of  the nationwide uproar over the proposed increase. 

As Astro stands to add RM83 million to its annual sales with the RM5 monthly subscription rate increase given its subscriber base of 1.39 million people, this hike  is not chicken-feed which could be totally disregarded by the government. 

I call on Ananda Krishnan to  suspend the increase of the RM5 Astro monthly  subscription rate set to begin tomorrow (24th May), and instead set up an Astro viewers consultative council so that the views of the subscribers, both with regard to the subscription rate increase and programming, could be sought and considered before any final decision is made.


I hope all Cabinet Ministers as well as Members of Parliament in the current parliamentary meeting  will support the proposal that Astro suspend its proposed subscription rate increase tomorrow  until there is full consultation with the Astro subscribers.

I have asked the MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yeow,  MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok and MP for Bukit Bintang, Fong Kui Lun whose portfolios overlap pertaining to the controversy over the hike of Astro subscription fees to jointly establish a committee, which should not be confined to DAP MPs or members and should include professionals, to study in greater  depth the many ramifications of the various issues highlighted by the nation-wide uproar. Abdul Kadir has said that the Astro price hike issue involved three ministries, namely Ministry of Information, Ministry of Internal Security and the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications. Kadir  overlooked at least one other  Ministry  – the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

Chow’s portfolio responsibilities among DAP MPs are  information, science, technology, local government and heritage; Teresa’s portfolios are housing, energy, water and communications while Fong’s responsibilities are finance and economy.

The Parliamentary  caucus on the Astro price hike controversy should go beyond the issue of Astro price hike and it should consider the various issues highlighted by the controversy, including”

  • Complaints of Astro subscribers about unfair and unsatisfactory services;
  • Guidelines on advertisement for pay TV, whether it is three minutes per hour and whether this has been violated by Astro;
  • The role of expatriates in strategic industries like Astro;
  • The “Open Sky”  broadcasting policy, allowing for unfettered transmission of information in Malaysian airspace, recognizing the inevitability of globalised information with the availability of  thousands of  channels.
  • Public policy positions on price increases on essential or monopoly items, whether petrol,  Astro, water, electricity, sewerage, etc.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman