Digitisation: Analogue cable homes in Kolkata continue to receive signals

MUMBAI: Kolkata remained largely unaffected by the digitisation deadline thanks to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee‘s diktat to cable operators not to swtich off signals to analogue homes.

Siti Cable Kolkata Director Suresh Sethia said that the West Bengal government had told the operators against discontinuing signals to analogue homes as it feared that there would be chaos in the city since a large number of homes are yet to be digitised.

"All the channels are available to analogue subscribers," he claimed. "The Chief Minister (Mamata Bannerjee) had clearly told cable operators that the signals should not be switched off, otherwise there would be law and order situation."

As per the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2011, it is illegal to transmit TV signals to analogue homes after the sunset date. As per the law passed by the parliament, the country will switch to digital cable in phased manner by 31 December 2014.

The deadline for first phase of digitisation in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata ended on 31 October. While in Chennai the deadline was pushed to 5 November due to the Madras High Court order.

Sethia‘s claim was supported by the head of a rival MSO who did not wished to be identified, "Let‘s be practical, we are doing business in Kolkata and we can‘t go against state government‘s diktat. The state government is obviously concerned about the law and order situation if analogue homes go blank," he said.

He claimed that only 50 per cent homes have been seeded with STBs in contrast to I&B ministry‘s latest figure of 85 per cent.

Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) which had earlier asserted that it will switch off signals to analogue homes was caught off-guard. Talking to, IBF president Man Jit Singh had stated that it had set up teams to conduct raids with police in case there is a case of piracy.

"We have switched off signals to analogue cable. We are following the law of the land. I can‘t say more than that," Singh said when asked to clarify on the Kolkata situation.

Singh also said that IBF was studying the ground situation as it is just the first day after the deadline.

The senior MSO executive quoted above asserted that none of the cable operators have gone against the state government‘s direction and analogue customers continued to receive all the channels.

"The analogue and digital homes are existing together for the time being," the executive added. He remained non-commital when asked how long this arrangement would continue.

Sethia, however, asserted that the MSOs and LCOs are committed to digitisation. Their only demand was to extend digitisation deadline a demand that was rejected by the Union government.

"There is robust demand for STBs," he asserted adding that the cable operators would continue to seed boxes.

What incentive will analogue customers have to install a STB if they are anyway getting all the channels on analogue cable?

"They know that this arrangement is only for the time being and eventually they have to switch to digital cable," Sethia replied.

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