Digitisation deadline: Ambika Soni to meet stakeholders on 8 June

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni will be meeting all stakeholders on 8 June to sort out issues raised in connection with the first phase of digitisation in the four metros, which is reaching its sunset date of 30 June three weeks from now..

The government is likely to announce a shift in the deadline date as most of the multi-system operators (MSOs) are not ready with the set-top boxes (STBs). Trai announced the tariff guidelines under the digital addressable system as late as 30 April.

Cable networks are expecting the government to shift the deadline for digitisation in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

"We are expecting a six-month extension," said the head of a leading MSO.

The broadcasters are, however, pressing for the deadline date to stay as they fell that digitisation would drastically cut down on their carriage payouts to cable networks while subscription revenues would go up.

Senior Ministry sources told that a meeting of the Task Force was held on 1 June under the chairmanship of Additional Secretary Rajiv Takru wherein many stakeholders – primarily cable operators – raised certain issues which needed to be sorted out before digitisation could take place.

These issues have been placed before Soni and are under her consideration.

Though the government insists it will not defer the first phase of digitisation, the final decision would be taken after the Minister meets the stakeholders, the sources said.

However, it is learnt that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha, and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee have written letters seeking extension of the date, and cases have been filed in the High Courts in all metros against the government directive.

It is also learnt that only around 20 per cent of the set top boxes needed for the four metros have so far been installed.

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