Technology

Chennai cable TV digitisation deadline to be decided on Friday

NEW DELHI: It will be status quo in Chennai with the Madras High Court on Monday extending its stay on digitisation of cable TV till Friday, 9 November when it will resume its hearing on a petition by Chennai Metro Cable Operators Association (CMCOA).


The court had on 31 October stayed the implementation of digitisation till 5 November in Chennai. The central government had set 1 November as the deadline for compulsory switchover to digital cable TV from the current analogue transmission.


Justice N Paul Vasanthkumar said the court‘s main concern was the average consumer in Chennai and not just the petitioners (read cable operators).


The court wanted the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to specify whether the MSOs have enough stock of set top boxes (STBs) to go ahead with digitisation.


The Judge asked all the MSOs to present the exact position of STB availability and the actual seeding during the next hearing.


The Madras HC was hearing a petition filed by Chennai Metro Cable Operators Association (CMCOA) through its general secretary M R Srinivasan which is seeking extension of digitisation deadline by three months.


S Haja Mohideed Gisthi, senior central government standing counsel, opposed any extension of the deadline saying the petition had been filed at the eleventh hour. Ever since the policy was unveiled in January 2011, the deadline had been extended thrice, Gisthi said.


When the MIB‘s Counsel pointed out that a similar petition had been dismissed by Bombay High Court, the court shot back saying that the situation in the two cities were not comparable as Mumbai has already achieved 100 per cent digitisation as per the ministry‘s own claim.


He said the government has already issued Digital Addressable System (DAS) licences to 11 MSOs in the city and it was their duty to procure STBs.


The court also heard representations on behalf of DTH operators who claimed that there are enough STBs, but the judge said the case related to cable TV.


The petition, noting that repeated requests for extension of the deadline was not acceded to by the Centre, claimed only 164,000 homes have been seeded with STBs in the Chennai and television sets in more than three million homes would go blank if the deadline was not extended. The petitioners also said that the MSOs did not have enough STBs to seed in all the homes.


Noting that the Tamil Nadu government‘s Arasu Cable Television has entered as the 11th MSO in the state, the CMCOA said Arasu has invited tenders for supply of one million STBs to meet 25 per cent of the city‘s requirement.


The petitioners wanted the court to stay total implementation of digitisation in Chennai till the infrastructure is put in place.


Meanwhile, state-owned Arasu Cable has started giving ads in local Tamil newspapers urging people to enroll their names by paying Rs 500 in advance to get STBs.


Earlier, MIB had admitted that ‘the pace of seeding has remained somewhat static‘, saying Cable TV digitisation in Chennai was 86 per cent, including 24 per cent of the homes which subscribe to DTH.


The Bombay High Court had refused to grant any relief to cable operators in India‘s financial capital after the additional solicitor general told the court that the entire city had been digitised.

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