Govt working on ordinance to speed up digitisation

NEW DELHI: The government is working on an ordinance to speed up digitisation of the cable and satellite television industry worth Rs 200 billion, a route that is set to upset several cable TV operators in the short run while accelerating pay-TV revenues for broadcasters and curtailing their carriage costs.

The multi-system operators (MSOs) are unwilling to voice their views openly at this stage but feel that an ordinance to pass such a complex issue is not a step in the right direction.

With the next session of Parliament still about two months away and the deadline for digitisation in the four metros (31 March 2012) fast approaching, the Indian government is expected to issue an ordinance to amend the rules and ensure complete digitisation by December 2014.

Ministry sources said a draft of the ordinance is being prepared by the Ministry, which would be placed before the Cabinet shortly.

The ordinance will particularly amend Section 4A of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 as it currently does not have any provision for beaming free-to-air (FTA) channels through the set-top box (STB).
"The government should have first rolled out complete digitisation in Cas areas before gradually moving up to digital addressable system under which the FTA channels will also have to go through a STB. There will be a consumer anger. We will also have shortage of STBs," said Digicable Network India MD and CEO Jagjit Singh Kohli.

Hathway Cable & Datacom, however, is in support of such a move. "It will be a step in the right direction. There is no need to delay digitisation," said Hathway Cable & Datacom MD and CEO K Jayaraman.

The Ministry sources said while there may not be any reference to the FDI limit in the ordinance, there will be an enabling provision to increase the threshold.

Earlier this year, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in its final report on the schedule issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had said the first phase covering the metros would be completed by 31 March 2012 (as against Trai‘s revised deadline of 31 December 2012).

The Ministry said Phase II covering cities with a population more than 1 million will be fully digitised by 31 March 2013 (as against the revised Trai deadline of 31 December 2012).

Phase III covering all urban areas (Municipal Corporations/Municipalities) will be digitised by 30 September 2014 (as against Trai‘s revised timescale of 31 December 2013).

Phase IV covering the rest of India will be digitised by 31 December 2014 (as against Trai‘s revised timeline of 31 December 2013).

Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) President Roop Sharma told that three different groups have been formed, which is creating an impediment to the digitisation process.

The 18-member Task Force had been constituted to oversee and facilitate the implementation of digital addressable cable TV systems in the country.

The Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (Becil) has entered into an agreement with Society for Broadband Professionals (SCTE) of London to receive training in digitisation. Becil will then impart the training to Indian personnel involved in the digitisation process.

Meanwhile, Den Networks shares jumped 12.25 per cent to close Monday at Rs 61.85 on the BSE. Hathway Cable & Datacom also saw 6.78 per cent growth to Rs 88.15, while Hinduja Ventures rose 1.15 per cent to close at Rs 307.25.

Shares of Dish TV, the only DTH company to be publicly traded, rose 1.11 per cent to Rs 77.55.

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