Digitisation: Analogue signals switched off in Delhi & Mumbai, Kolkata resists

NEW DELHI: Digitisation of cable TV began in India on Thursday with the complete switch-off of analogue signals in Delhi and Mumbai, but the government faces resistance in Kolkata given the opposition to the shift from the ruling party in the state.

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has instructed all multi-system operators (MSOs) to certify that their analogue signals have been switched off completely, a move that’s seen as a means to prevent piracy of signals to serve customers still to switch over from analogue.

The status of Chennai, which was the fourth city included in the first phase of digitisation, will be known on Monday, 5 November when the Madras High Court orders further hears a petition by Chennai Metro Cable Operators’ Association (CMCOA).

The ministry has avoided direct confrontation with the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee by not sending its technical teams to Kolkata to ensure the MSOs there do not continue to deliver television channels in analogue mode.
The technical teams were deployed by the Ministry only in Mumbai and Delhi, where they have ensured that analogue signals are switched off at all the head-ends of MSOs. The ministry, however, has received mixed information from Kolkata on switching off of analogue signals.

I&B secretary Uday Kumar Varma told earlier in the day that the government would not allow analogue television signals to be delivered parallel to digital signals for the benefit of TV households which are still to install digital set-top boxes (STBs).

The government has laid out a road map for digitisation across the country in phases with the last round ending in December 2014.

The ministry has claimed that digitisation in the four metros has touched 91.75 per cent, based on the data provided by MSOs on installation of STBs which then was extrapolated with the 2011 census figures on television households in the four metros.

The ministry has estimated cable TV households in the four metros to be 6.53 million based on 2011 census data. The ministry said the MSOs have informed if that they have installed a total of 6.43 million STBs in the four metros, including in homes with more than one TV sets.

The ministry said digitisation in Delhi had gone up to 101 per cent, in Mumbai to 118 per cent, in Kolkata 85 per cent and in Chennai 63 per cent, but it did not explain how in Delhi and Mumbai the STB installation could be more than 100 per cent. Apparently, the number of STBs deployed include homes with two or more TV sets.

The ministry has asked MSOs to set up canopies/kiosks in poorer colonies to ensure STBs are made available to consumers at the determined price of Rs 799 on the spot. MSOs have also been asked to ensure consumers are not overcharged for the STBs and advised to advertise their telephone numbers where consumers can lodge their complaints against those taking undue advantage of the situation.

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