Digitisation in Kolkata gets Mamata Banerjee nod

MUMBAI: This piece of news would certainly be music to the ears of Manish Tewari, the newly-appointed Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister. The West Bengal government has turned around and extended its support to the switch over of cable TV services to digital from analogue.

The state government plans to aggressively drive implementation of digitisation in the eastern metropolis by asking multi-system operators (MSOs) to switch off analogue signals to TV homes after the Diwali festival.

"The West Bengal government held meetings with MSOs individually to take stock of the situation in Kolkata. Firhad Hakim (Urban Development Minister) spoke separately to MSOs. The state government will shortly make an announcement about switching-off signals to analogue homes," Siti Cable Kolkata Director Suresh Sethia told

With the Durga puja festival over, the West Bengal government is now willing to crack the whip after Diwali to make consumers adopt digital cable television, said industry officials who did not want to be named.

The state government is expected to make an announcement in next few days so that customers also become serious about buying boxes. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee‘s public statements allowing analogue cable to run alongside digital cable had created uncertainty but the unexpected change of stance has provided a big boost to total implementation of the first phase of digitisation in the four metros.

The state government, which had given clear instructions to MSOs not to switch off signals to analogue homes, has now decided to accelerate the process of digitisation. Industry officials say an estimated 50-60 per cent cable TV homes in Kolkata have been digitised so far.

Siti Cable‘s Sethia said the state government wanted a smooth transition to digitisation and avoid chaos and breakdown of law and order in the city. "Everybody wants digitisation but it has to be a smooth process. The reason why the state government allowed signals to analogue homes because they wanted to avoid a (worsening) law and order situation," Sethia averred.

As a precursor to an announcement by the state government, the MSOs in Kolkata have decided to go in for a genre-wise switch-off of analogue signals, which was done in Mumbai and Delhi before the digitisation deadline of 1 November.

"All the MSOs in Kolkata have decided to switch-off channels genre wise. A decision on the dates will be taken in the next few days," a top executive with another MSO said.

According to information available with Gujarat Telelinks Pvt Ltd (GTPL), in which Hathway Cable & Datacom holds 50 per cent stake, has already begun the genre wise switch-off in Kolkata starting with English movie channels. GTPL has a presence in Kolkata through 51 per cent acquistion in Kolkata Cable and Broadband Pariseva.

The MSOs have in principle also agreed to the state government‘s request to come out with a special package for consumers from below poverty line (BPL) category. "The state government had requested MSOs to subsidise STBs for people from BPL category. They had also told us to prepare special package for BPL customers so we will come out with special package for them," Sethia said.

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