Digitisation ordinance expected to be notified following presidential clearance

NEW DELHI: Following the approval of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil to the ordinance to make digitisation of cable services mandatory by 2014, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has set in motion the process to put the infrastructure in place for meeting the deadlines.

The ordinance aims at complete digitisation of cable television in the four metros by March 31, 2012. The target date for completely digitising cable sector in cities with population of more than one million is September 2014, while the whole country will be fully digitised by December 2014.
This will also mean an end to the analogue era and customers of cable networks must have a set top box irrespective of whether they wish to receive free-to-air or encrypted (pay) channels.
Ministry sources however said the deadlines given by the Government are flexible and may change. They also said it was possible that digital and analogue signals may co-exist for some time even after December 2014.

The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 13 October cleared the proposal for an ordinance for digitisation of TV services and sent it to the President for her assent.
The sources said the ordinance, which may be notified today or tomorrow, was being brought forward as the next session of Parliament was still about two months away and the deadline for digitizing the cable television operations in the four metros by March 2012 was fast approaching. (Under the Constitution, any Ordinance has to be approved within six weeks of the commencement of the next session of Parliament, otherwise it will lapse.)

The sources stressed that the ordinance was also being resorted to as there was sharp division among the broadcasting and multi-system operators community with regard to the dates, particularly since digitisation would help control the carriage fee. (Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) President Roop Sharma, who is a member of the Task Force on Digitisation headed by I and B Additional Secretary Rajiv Takru, told that three different groups had formed which was creating an impediment to the digitisation process.)

The new ordinance aims to amend Section 4A of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 as it currently does not have any provision for beaming free-to-air channels through the digital set top box.

Presently, a total of around 116 million homes are receiving cable TV signals from broadcasters and MSOs in the country‘s Rs 200-billion cable and satellite television industry.

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