LCOs ask for separate regulator for cable operators

NEW DELHI: Local cable operators (LCOs) are demanding the creation of a separate Cable Television Regulatory Authority of India to deal with issues relating to broadcasting on the ground that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) comprising experts in telecom is ill-equipped to deal with their issues.

The LCOs have suggested that all cable TV operators should become members of the Council of Cable TV of India which should be given recognition and representation by the Government on all relevant platforms.

Attempting to form a united stand on common issues, the LCOs have said that the issuance of licences should move away from the post offices to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry as this would ensure no unruly elements come into the business. They have also blamed the post offices for refusing to issue licences to LCOs after registering them.

The LCOs protested against the Trai‘s Tariff Order for digital addressable cable which had fixed a revenue share of Rs 45 from the basic service tier, saying that it was highly unjust since they were already getting Rs 82 under the Cas-mandated system.

The LCOs were attending a two-day conference of cable TV operators from different parts of the country.

The National Conference of Indian Broadcasting and CATV Industry had been organised by the All India Aavishkaar Dish Antennae Sangh with the aim to apprise the LCOs from all over the country with the latest developments in digitisation and to also form a united stand on common issues.

Dr A K Rastogi, president of the Sangh, said that all channels should flash the rates of encrypted (pay channels) clearly so that the viewer and the LCO is aware of the rate to ensure transparency.

Senior consultant V C Khare lashed out at Trai for not having coming out with a clear-cut rate card for pay TV under DAS.

He also regretted that while the amended Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act referred to right of way for LCOs and said they can use electricity poles, there was nothing about this in the Rules issued under the Act.

Khare also said it was surprising that cable TV was not listed on the Central Government list when broadcasting was a central and not state subject.

Rastogi stressed the need to train cable TV technicians, and the announced training by the Broadcasting Engineering Consultants (India) Ltd. (BECIL) had not yielded any tangible results. He urged all LCOs to hold meetings with their subscribers and Resident Welfare Associations to apprise them about the need for installing set-top boxes (STBs).

He said both Mumbai and Delhi now had adequate STBs to go digital, but the state governments in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu were not keen on going digital. This may create impediments in the first phase of digitisation slated for 1 November.

LCOs should form district-level committees to ensure speedy implementation of digitisation, Rastogi added.

He called for an exemption of import duty on new STBs and a tax holiday for at least ten years for all work relating to digitisation.

The cable TV should be recognised as an information infrastructure industry, Rastogi added.

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