Govt puts off cable TV digitisation deadline by 4 months to 1 November

NEW DELHI: Bowing to pressure from the local cable operators, multi-system operators and some state governments, the Government today decide to defer the date of cable digital addressable systems (DAS) to 1 November in the first phase covering four metros.

The four-month delay from the earlier deadline of 1 July was announced today even as matters are pending before the Mumbai and Delhi High Courts and Tdsat. This will also satisfy the West Bengal government as chief minister Mamata Banerjee was pressing for digitisation in Kolkata after the Dusshera Pujas.

The official statement said: "The assessment of the ground realities compels the I&B Ministry to set a new deadline. It is, however, imperative that the modified target deadline is set with strict benchmarks to ensure that no complacency sets-in in the system and the new target date is achieved collectively by all the stakeholders."

"Therefore, keeping in view public interest and after intensive and extensive consultations as well as written commitments from all the stakeholders for fully implementing the regulations of Trai", the Ministry said it had decided to modify the deadline to 31 October in all four metro cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

Under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2011, it had been mandated that the switchover of the existing analogue Cable TV networks to DAS by December 2014, in a phased manner. In respect of four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, the digital switchover was mandated to come into effect from 1 July 2012.

The Government admitted in its order that the orders of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Tariff & Interconnection, and on the Quality of Service Regulations and the Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations had not yet been substantially implemented.

As a result of this, the installation of set-top boxes had not picked up necessary pace for the completion of the process of digitisation by 30 June 2012.

The Task Force comprising all stakeholders constituted by the Ministry in April 2011 had been monitoring the progress made by various stakeholders towards digitisation. The task force has also undertaken field visits and interacted with local stakeholders. Discussions have been regularly held with broadcasters, multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs), while the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had been in regular contact with the concerned State Governments on this issue.

Regulations on Tariff & Interconnection were issued by Trai only on 30 April 2012 instead of being issued in January 2012, ‘as expected’. The Quality of Service Regulations and the Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations were issued on 14 May 2012 by Trai.

Under these, every Broadcaster and MSO was required to publish its Reference Interconnect Offers (RIOs) within 30 days of issue of the Regulation. Another 30 days are required for negotiations between broadcasters and MSOs. Thereafter, the MSOs and LCOs arrive at agreements which enable the consumers to have a clear indication of the terms and conditions for installing STBs and the prices of channels on an a-la-carte as well as on a bouquet basis.

The second order of Trai of 14 May 2012 has mandated that every MSO or its linked cable operator has to put in place a Consumer Complaint Redressal System consisting of a complaint centre with toll free consumer care number, web based complaint monitoring system as well as appoint or designate one or more nodal officers and publish consumer’s charter for DAS.

The Ministry will closely monitor the process of digitisation over the next four months, and will issue warning letters to those going slow on their written commitments. Needless to add, both the Ministry and Trai will take action under the provisions of the Cable Act wherever and whenever necessary, the statement said.

Court Hearings

The court hearings will now lack bite with the government pushing back the deadline date.

The Bombay High Court was supposed to hear a petition on delaying digitisation today which it postponed to tomorrow.

The Delhi HC also postponed its hearing in a similar matter to 25 June.

The Tdsat will also hear a matter filed by LCOs and IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL) against Trai’s tariff order on 25 June.

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