No shift in digitisation deadline, Delhi lags behind: Ambika Soni

NEW DELHI: Ruling out extension of the sunset date for switching off analogue for cable television beyond 31 October, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni has admitted that Delhi was lagging behind in this process.

Soni met Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and asked her to ensure that all households having cable TV connections install digital set-top box (STB) before the deadline.

"Only 70 per cent people in Delhi have installed the digital device while in Mumbai 90 per cent people have installed it. The percentage for Kolkata is 77 and for Chennai it is around 70," she said.

The Minister said though Delhi was lagging behind, she was confident that 100 per cent household would install the digital STBs by 31 October as Dikshit had assured full implementation.

Resolving to implement the "major reform initiative", Soni said the deadline for installation of STBs in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai is not going to be extended any further. The I&B Ministry had extended the earlier deadline of 30 June to 31 October following what it termed as demand by cable operators.

"Through digitisation, people will be able to access internet connection, phone connection and even be able to watch TV on mobile. It is a major reform initiative in the (television and broadcasting) sector," she said.

Dikshit, asked about Delhi lagging behind other metros in installation of STBs, said the state government would soon launch a campaign to make people aware about the issue. "Delhi will not hesitate to implement it. I think it is a step forward towards modernisation. People in Delhi will install the device by 31 October. I have assured it to the Minister," she said.

However, the Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) said the earlier extension had been done by the government itself because of lack of STBs. COFI President Roop Sharma also told that the figure of 70 per cent was lower than the government‘s own earlier figure, and this showed there had been no under-declaration as claimed by some broadcasters.

Organisations of cable operators in Kolkata and Chennai have denied the latest claims. The Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation held its first meeting with cable operators on 27 September for installing headends.

The Cable and Broadband Operators Welfare Association of Kolkata recently said that "we can not understand how the penetration percentage of STB has jumped up from 20.67 per cent in the month of June 2012 (as stated by I and B Joint Secretary Supriya Sahu) to 67 per cent in the middle of September in Kolkata. The fact behind poor STB penetration is non-availability of STBs at a few MSOs of Kolkata even at this juncture".

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