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Council threatens to bring TV dishes down to earth

Council threatens to bring TV dishes down to earth

作者:官攉  时间:2019-02-26 09:05:00  人气:

By BARRY FOX A GROUP OF council-house tenants in the London Borough of Sutton were due to receive an ultimatum through the post this week: remove your satellite dish aerials or lose your home. The borough’s housing department is emphasising that this is no idle threat. It says that if the dishes are not removed within four weeks, the council will apply to the county court for repossession of the property. If this is granted, they will then evict the tenants and remove the aerial. Early in 1989, even before Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV started broadcasting to Britain from Luxembourg’s Astra satellite, Sutton’s housing committee produced a report which warned that dish aerials would not only look ugly, but also might cause damage to council property in high winds. The committee decided that council tenants would only be allowed to erect dishes if they had a garden, and could find a place on the ground with direct line of sight to the Astra satellite. However, many tenants ignored this edict and bolted dishes to their walls or roofs. The committee has now stated that it is going to fight rather than give in to local pressure. Sutton’s housing department has picked a target area, which it refuses to identify. The department is already convinced that some tenants will refuse, and it is ready to follow up its threats. After four weeks, the council intends to serve repossession notices on offending tenants, claiming that they have breached their lease. If the tenants choose to fight for their dishes, Sutton will select one family as a test case and fight it through the courts to establish a binding legal precedent. To help to pay for this, Sutton will seek support from other councils in the area. The director of housing at Sutton says the council does not want to stop people watching satellite television. But he says that the council faces legal problems in offering its tenants alternatives. All council buildings in Sutton with more than six dwellings already receive their television programmes through a system of ‘master-antennas’ TV, or MATV. These distribute the signal from a single UHF aerial on the roof of the building. Like many other local authorities, Sutton would like to convert these aerials to satellite systems, known as SMATV, by adding dishes. Tenants would then receive a choice of 15 channels of terrestrial TV, Sky’s satellite programmes from Astra and BSB’s new service, due to start on 29 April. Under current broadcasting laws, however, any company which has a franchise from the government’s Cable Authority to provide a complete cable TV service for the area has first right of refusal on providing SMATV systems. United Cable, Sutton’s franchise holder, will take about four years to provide a full cable service. The council now wants the company either to provide SMATV services urgently, or give the go-ahead for others to do the work. Sky acknowledges that it cannot argue with the terms of council tenancies. However, it complains about the bureaucracy and red tape facing tenants who apply for permission to erect a dish. ‘The forms they have to fill in to erect an aerial are often the same as those you need for major building work,’ says Sky. ‘A lot of the problem is ignorance on the part of local authorities.’ With this in mind, both Sky and BSB are currently running seminars around the country on SMATV, aimed at cable companies, aerial installers and local government authorities. But all this is too late for tenants who are now being ordered to remove dishes. They will either lose their homes or end up without satellite programmes for many months,