Cable TV networks emerged in various parts of Kerala in the early ‘nineties, as ventures of self-employment by youths. They were local networks, operating in the neighbourhood territories of the promoters, and were mutually non-antagonistic. Later, as the cable TV industry was entering a high-growth stage nationally, it became big business, and networks with massive capital investment appeared on the scene. Around the same time, thereto FTA (Free-to-air) channels began turning pay channels. These phenomena posed a stiff threat to the small local neighbourhood networks, which looked like wilting under severe competition, and were groping in the dark for sheer survival. It was in such a scenario that a fellowship of cable operators calling itself the “Cable Operators’ Association” was born; it was not a trade union or a business cartel –it was truly a fellowship among neighbourhood networks.
To-day, more than 2,600 cable operators spread across all the 14 districts of Kerala, and in the contiguous hamlet Mahi, have taken up membership of the COA. It has been functioning with remarkable foresight in the consolidating the base of small networks and helping them pool valuable resources. There was a conscious effort to set up head-ends catering to networks in the taluq level or district level. This was indeed a commendable exercise in avoidance of wasting of resources, and it also went a long way in transforming cable channels into the chief regional media outlets of Kerala. Both bear testimony to the long term vision of the COA. There are now over a hundred local cable channels with three or more local news bulletins, and dozens of district-level channels. As a matter of fact, these micro-level cable channels, most of which are cutely packaged, are a significant and vibrant feature of Malayalam TV media sector.