NEW DELHI: The Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation, a multi-system operator (MSO) run by the TN government - has been claiming that the government has not given it an operational licence, thereby restricting it from transmitting digital signals to its subscribers. The MSO even filed a case in the Madras High Court in December, 2013 and got a stay over Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) earlier order which stated that MSOs transmitting analogue signals in Chennai would be prosecuted.
While the case is yet to get its second date of hearing, the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) minister Manish Tewari, in a response to a question in the Parliament, said that on 26 November, 2007 Arasu had applied for grant of MSO registration in conditional access system (CAS) notified area of Chennai. The Ministry had granted provisional permission on 2 April, 2008. It was on the condition that after TRAI recommendations are considered, the Ministry will decide whether state governments/PSUs and other entities can enter into broadcasting activities including MSO/Cable operations.
Along with Arasu, four other MSOs in Chennai were also given CAS licences in 2006 including IMCL, Hathway Cable and Datacom, Kal Cable and JAK communications.
In response to a question about licences given to private players in other southern states, Tewari said that CAS was implemented in the notified areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata on 31.12.2006; while in Chennai, it was implemented since 2003 under notifications of 14 January, 2003 and 31 July, 2006. Since CAS was implemented only in Chennai, no CAS permission was granted to MSOs in other southern states.
The entire episode has in a way turned everything around. The case is pending in court till the time TRAI submits its response. So while TRAI - which is completely against the idea of govt. owned MSOs and awaits Ministry’s response to its recommendations - awaits the responses, it could mean that Arasu is free to operate. Moreover, it can even give digital signals or seed STBs as TRAI can’t take any action against it, given that the MSO has a temporary licence.
The picture will be clear only after the Ministry brings out its regulation and the case in the Madras High Court proceeds.