Govt expects Trai feedback on sunset date for digitisation soon: Menon

NEW DELHI: The government expects to receive in ‘a day or two’ the report of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on the Government’s reaction to the first report on digitisation sent by the regulator, secretary in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry Raghu Menon said.

A final decision on the sunset date for digitisation would help both Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) to take off. Trai had given the sunset date of December 2013 which the Ministry felt was not ‘practical’ and so it suggested 31 March 2015. Ninety per cent of the 80 million cable homes in the country were on analogue, Menon added.
Menon also announced that a regulatory framework was being finalised for mobile television in accordance with international standards. There was some disagreement with Trai with regard to the 585-625 Megahertz spectrum band, he said.

Trai was also actively considering the issue of inter-operability of DTH so that consumers could change their service provider for DTH without having to change the set top box.

Menon was speaking at the inauguration of the BES Expo 2011 at the Pragati Maidan here. The three-day Expo has been organised as in previous years by the Broadcast Engineering Society – India.

He said DTH had played a crucial role in the growth of television in India, with 26 million households using the platform through six service providers.

He said the report of the Group of Ministers now before the Union Cabinet with regard to Phase III of FM Radio will cover all cities and towns with a population of 100,000 or more. A total of 806 FM stations will be auctioned in 283 cities, which will include 215 towns that will get FM for the first time. This would offer new areas for creating employment and had the potential to generate revenue for the Government by efficiently utilising the frequency radio spectrum earmarked for FM Radio services.

Referring to content, he said the Government had ‘decided to give self-regulation a chance’ seeing the success of the self-regulation adopted by the News Broadcasters Association. Since most of the complaints were about the general entertainment channels, he said the Indian Broadcasting Foundation was (IBF) in the final stages of finalising a self-regulatory mechanism.

He said at the outset that there was possibility of India emerging as a global player in the media and entertainment field, and reports had suggested a compounded annual growth rate of 13 per cent over the next five years. India today had 828 channels reaching 60 per cent of the population.

He said while globalisation had brought about significant changes emerging as a ‘truly borderless media’, there were some hazards in this. He said this led to unregulated content which was a matter of worry, redefined the concepts of privacy and secrecy, and was leading to some folk arts disappearing.

But innovations in technology led to increased access to quality information, facilitated better connectivity with affordable services and created a platform for mass empowerment and participation amongst the people. The emergence of new media had resulted in unconventional ways in which news and information was now being circulated.
He said digitisation with addressability was the answer as it would enable delivery of a number of channels as well as facilitate triple play - provisioning of TV, Telephony and Internet services through cable.

Regarding the initiatives taken by Doordarshan to provide a low cost alternative for the poor, Menon said the Ministry had approved a plan scheme for upgrading the free-to-air DTH platform of Doordarshan DD Direct Plus to carry 97 channels against the present 57 channels at present by December 2011 and 200 channels in the 12th Plan period.

Speaking on the occasion, Prasar Bharati Chairperson Mrinal Pande said a balance had to be maintained between programming and technology. Content had to be carefully designed in such a way that it did not create a disconnect within society. It was the responsibility of Prasar Bharati to rise up to the challenges of disseminating quality information as a public broadcaster.

The three-day expo is expected to discuss a range of issues, which include Digital Broadcasting- Growth and Implementation in India, Technology for HD, VFX & 3D Stereoscopic Content Production, Content Creation- Trends and Challenges, Tapeless Content Workflow- XDCAM HD 422, DVB Second Generation- Success Story, 3G and Beyond, IP Enabled Solutions and Broadcast Regulation.

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