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MCMC mulls Android TV box ban. Move could benefit Astro

Android TV boxes could be illegal in Malaysia as MCMC considers a move to ban the device. This, according to the commission, is on the premise to curb access to pirated content but it admits that the effort will need to involve other ministries and agencies.

In addition, MCMC is prioritising its efforts on ways to prevent the download and streaming of pirated content rather than the out-and-out ban of Android TV boxes.

On the flip side, the ban could benefit Malaysia’s largest Pay-TV operator according to Maybank Investment Bank Research. The firm noted that Android TV boxes, which are gaining popularity in Malaysia, pose a huge problem for Pay-TV operators.

“If Malaysia passes similar legislation, we believe that it would be a huge catalyst for Astro,” the firm told The Star when commenting on a similar ban being considered by the Singapore government.

Singapore’s Law Ministry is looking to pass a law banning the sale of set-top boxes or media streaming boxes with services that allow consumers to access pirated content.

In November 2018, the Singapore High Court ordered Internet service providers to cut Internet access to Android TV boxes.

Pay-TV services taking the hit from Android TV boxes

It’s not surprising that Astro is worried about the proliferation of Android TV boxes in Malaysia. In November 2018, Astro share prices fell to its lowest ever in five years at RM1.14 per share. While Astro’s share price has recovered somewhat to RM1.67 per share this month, it is still a far cry from the RM3.68 per share recorded by the company in August 2014.

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MCMC chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak said, the sale and ownership of set-top boxes with services that allow consumers to access pirated content is illegal in Malaysia, but he admits that the effort to pass a law banning Android TV boxes will require careful consideration and the involvement of various ministries and agencies.

Difficult to enforce

A ban on Android TV boxes would be difficult to enforce and should be the last resort in the fight against piracy. The commission is aware of this and is focusing its effort on exploring ways to limit or prevent the download of pirated content using Android TV boxes before looking at a hard ban on the device.

In any case, the widespread use of the Android operating system in smart TVs make the ban difficult to enforce. This is because there’s very little differentiating Android powered TVs and Android TV boxes in terms of features and functionalities. If MCMC moves to ban Android TV boxes, does that mean Android powered smart TVs are banned too?

At the same time, we are consuming content on our mobile devices more and more. If the ban does come to pass, would it be effective in preventing the consumption of pirated content in the country? Or would users just move to their mobile devices to access pirated content?

While the move to better enforce the downloading and consumption of pirated content is necessary and commendable one, it will be a tremendously challenging endeavour for MCMC. There is a multitude of factors for the commission to consider ensuring that any law that is passed on this matter directly benefit the content creators while not limiting the public’s freedom and right to access content freely and openly.

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Amin Ashaari