Some powerful forces in the Maldives are lobbying for a ban on Airtel dish antennas. We would like to believe that such forces are motivated by purely altruistic reasons such as protecting our culture and religion. However there are reasons to believe that it goes a bit beyond this.
The Airtel package is an India-based service that offers a large number of channels for the price of $100 per year, which works out to about Rf 100 per month. The cable packages hitherto available in the Maldives are priced at between Rf 300 and Rf 500. With this price difference Airtel dishes are appearing on Male rooftops at a rapid rate.
A few years back, the then Information Minister Nasheed had made an attempt to negotiate with local cable operators to bring down the prices. This attempt was blocked by the same lobbies, which today are gunning for Airtel.
To what extent our culture (or the lack there of) and religion (including our blatant disregard of its tenets) will be affected by the Airtel package is open to debate. But one thing is certain. Religious programs and pornographic material have been widely available in the Maldives for quite some time through imported CDs, video cassettes and radio, even before the appearance of dish antennas and the internet. If we are to close all these avenues we might as well get a time machine and transport us back to Stone Age.