, May 31 , 2004
HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes  -  Parents have had a long standing debate whether to give kids cellphones or not. Smartís marketing whiz Boy Martirez just ended the debate by launching another first, Smart Kid. The new service is tailor fit specifically for children ages five to 11 years. Armed with a cellphone, all a child needs to do is dial 11, and the phone automatically dials a set of five numbers pre-designated by the parent. If none of the numbers answer the phone, then a text alert message such as "please call me, dad" is sent to the parents immediately. Smart Kid brings parents in closer touch with their children. If that isnít enough, Smart Kid allows parents to monitor the location of their children anywhere in the city.

For parents who feel that cellphones have no educational value, think again. Smart Kid has an educational menu of tools such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, facts and trivia and other services . Smart has also developed special games that sharpens a kidís mind in the area of mathematics and science.

Polly Nazareno recently said that one of Smartís formula for success is attacking all market segments. With this new product, Smart is clearly going after the youngest bracket of the market. A smart move, I must say. Now if they can come up with Smart Baby, Iíll be totally amazed.

Junk The Rules

Let us not keep our hopes up yet.

While the National Telecommunications Commission has in fact asked the Star Group, which distributes Star Movies, Star Sports, Star World, ESPN, and National Geographic Channel in the Philippines, to explain why it has not returned these channels to Global Destiny (formerly Destiny Cable) after discontinuing them way back Oct. 14, 2002, expect the Star Group to once again ignore the NTC.

After all, the NTC has no powers over foreign program providers. The Department of Transportation and Communications wanted NTC to issue rules that would govern these program providers and even require them to register before doing business in the Philippines, but somewhere along the way, the NTC during its previous administration lost political will.

Earlier this year, Destiny Cable CEO James Uy complained with the NTC regarding the Star Groupís discriminatory practice in its supply of content and programs to local cable companies. While it discontinued Destinyís access to its programs (Star Mandarin was discontinued since July 14, 2003) without citing any reason, the Star Group continued to make available these programs to other local cable companies.

Uy cited Sec. 2 of the implementing rules governing cable TV and direct broadcast satellite services to promote competition in the sector (implementing NTC Memorandum Circular 10-10-2003) which prohibits discrimination in the supply of programs by content providers, for being anti-competitive and contrary to sound public policy. It states that any such practice is tantamount to an exclusive arrangement, which requires prior approval of NTC.

According to Uy, the Star Groupís exclusion of DCI violates NTC circular 10-10-2003, to which NTC chief Ronald Solis agrees.

Solis has recently advised Star Groupís general manager for the Philippines & Pacific Islands, Liza Latinazo, together with their vice-president for regional distribution Mary Oh, to offer or make available to Destiny and to all other cable TV operators the programs it carries and distributes in the country.

Latinazo and Oh were likewise asked to report to Solis the actions they have taken regarding the said matter.

Unfortunately, the same case is happening with AXN Asia, which discontinued Destinyís access to the AXN Channel since July 31, 2003.

If I were Star Group, why should I heed NTCís order? What can the NTC do if the Star Group refuses to comply?

The NTC, under commissioner Solis, should seriously review NTC circular 10-10-2003 with the view of coming up with a set of rules that has more teeth. We have had enough with these abusive program providers.

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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