Cable ops support digitisation: Soni

NEW DELHI:Even as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s government has complained at not being consulted on digitisation, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni has said digitisation would be beneficial to the cable operators.

Speaking to the media in London, Soni said all decisions would be taken in consultation with the stakeholders. "Firstly I think those (critics) who said this are not fully aware of the discussions and arrangements, which have been made by us as a Ministry and also the guidelines which were initially announced by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Now you know that in 2002-2003 this was undertaken as CAS, there was resistance because most of the local cable operators thought that they would be out of job and they are estimated to be 40 to 60,000 in number," Soni said.

"This time around even though Trai has suggested a complete digitalisation by 2013, the ministry felt we needed at least more time for talking as it is very important we talk to all stakeholders," she added.

Soni further said that the cable operators have been pressing for digitisation as they sense stiff competition from direct to home (DTH) network providers.

She said the local cable operators have all in writing given their commitment to this. It is at their request that the government started moving in this direction. The cable operators today feel threatened by the DTH operators as one million DTH consumers are being created every month.

The digitisation of TV signals would offer a wider choice of channels to the consumers along with high quality viewing. Also, after digitisation, there would be no prime band.

While the multi-service operators (MSOs) and the local cable operators are racing against time to complete the technical requirements to meet the deadline, the remarks by a Minister in the West Bengal Government may create problems in Kolkata which along with other metros is to be digitised by 30 June.

The controversy arose when Firhad Hakim ‘Bobby‘, the Urban Development Minister and a close aide of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, said: "We were not consulted on this issue. If Trai or other agencies had discussed it with the erstwhile CPM government, we are not responsible for that."

Meanwhile, Banerjee has stirred a hornet’s nest by advising people in the state not to see news channels and instead to see channels like Star Jalsha, Tara, and Channel 10 which offer music and entertainment.

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