Analogue cannot be switched off before 1 Nov

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (Tdsat) has scuttled a proposed move to switch off genre-wise analogue signals of television channels before the 1 November deadline for digitisation in the four metros.

The Tdsat has sent a strong message to multi-system operators (MSOs) that they cannot switch off analogue delivery of any popular channel to force cable TV consumers to buy digital set top boxes (STBs) well in time for a complete switch over to digital delivery from 1 November.

TDSAT has directed that a senior official of the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (BECIL) be appointed to make surprise checks at the premises of MSOs named in a petition by ESPN Software.

The sports broadcaster had alleged that MSOs had stopped re-transmission of signals of its channels - ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket -- with a view to ensure the order of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry for digitisation of all networks in Delhi is implemented.

At the same time, Tdsat chairman S B Sinha and member P K Rastogi observed that there cannot be any doubt or dispute that a broadcaster cannot indirectly put pressure on MSOs or local cable operators to place its channel on higher frequencies without payment of any placement charges or carriage charges.

TDSAT also refused to allow the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to be impleaded at this stage, having regard to the fact that it has already taken cognizance of the complaints made by the petitioner ESPN.

The matter has now been listed to come up after four weeks, with the report of the commissioner on the inspection carried out at the premises of DEN, Hathway, WWIL and INCable.

The bench noted that there was no reason to disbelieve the MSOs who had denied the charges, particularly as ESPN is the sole distributor of some important international sporting events.

However, TDSAT felt that BECIL being a public sector undertaking, it may be asked to appoint a senior official to go as commissioner not only to visit the head-ends of the respondent MSOs but also make some surprise inspections.

The Commissioner may also, if necessary, obtain the technical assistance of the parties. It was made clear that the fees and other expenses incurred by the BECIL shall be borne by the petitioner.

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Channels may be pulled out genre-wise from analogue before 1 Nov

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