I&B will continue to push for fiscal incentives for digitisation

NEW DELHI: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry will continue to pursue with the government for providing financial incentives to support digitisation despite it being rejected by the Committee of Secretaries, I&B Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) Supriya Sahu said.

Referring to the number of set-top boxes required for Phase One covering the four metros, Sahu said orders had been placed for more than the ten million that would be needed in the four metros and around 2.5 million of these had already been fitted.

It would be ensured that these boxes comply to BSI standards, she said, adding that the MSOs would suffer if the quality was bad. She said there were five major and 17 independent MSOs in the country and they were working to ensure digitisation did not suffer.

She denied charges that the rate of licensing for cable operators had been increased manifold, pointing out that the fee of Rs 100,000 stipulated was for a period of ten years. She also did not think that the share of the cable operator of Rs 45 out of the basic tier of Rs 100 for 100 free-to-air channels against the present Rs 77 basic tier fee was low and said transparency of the number of subscribers with each cable operator would reveal the revenue of the operator as this and the carriage fee will be in the public domain.

Sahu was speaking at a session on ‘India goes digital: challenges and the way forward’ at the 9th Annual Summit on Entertainment and Growth organised by Assocham, Focus 2012 on ‘Digitisation for Inclusive Growth’.

INX News CEO Jehangir Pocha said no news channel was making profit but it needed Rs 500 to 550 million to take a TV channel to the consumer.

There were caps on FDI, advertisement time and rate, and even on raising money, but not on carriage fee, and yet the government expected the channels to do well.

Sun Group CEO Anthony D’Silva said the situation is not conducive for a DTH operator to raise money when around 50 per cent goes to taxes. "Every DTH player is bleeding and there is no light at the end of the tunnel," he added.

Videocon D2h COO Himanshu Patel said there was capacity constraint in bandwidth on the transponder side.

Star India VP Pulak Bagchi said cable industry took 22 years to reach 92 million households, while DTH had reached 40 million in just ten years and this indicated the direction in which the industry was headed.

Doordarshan News Director General said DD had its own digitisation programme which would be completed by 2017. He said DD today reached 92 per cent of the country. DD can help the digitisation movement by starting a public debate which will help clear doubts.

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