No shift in digitisation deadline; MSOs to announce channel package prices soon: Trai

GOA: Trai Principal Advisor N Parameswaran on Friday said multi-system operators (MSOs) have assured the regulator that they would soon announce the channel packages and their pricing, while reiterating that there would be no further extension of the deadline of 1 November for switching off analogue cable television in the four metros.

Parameswaran also ruled out analogue transmission co-existing with digital transmission in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai for a brief period after the deadline of 31 October.

The regulator wanted transparency and settlement through mutual consent at all levels, which was the reason for Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) not fixing any tariff but has only given a revenue sharing formula.

Parameswaran was addressing the opening session of the Indian Digital Operators Summit (IDOS) 2012 at the Lalit Golf and Spa Resort in Goa organised by in partnership with Media Partners Asia.

He said all stakeholders including MSOs would benefit from the march of technology as this would lead to more value-added services and even broadband and internet.

Answering questions later, he said that Trai had asked the government to consider rationalisation in the tax regime for direct to home (DTH) platforms. “There is scope to do something on this but it is a complex issue as various parties are involved. We are happy that the government accepted our recommendations on FDI in toto.”

He also said that Trai had been asked to look at the cross-media regulations in a new light after the report of the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, made at the behest of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Trai had given a report earlier in 2009 on the subject.

Asked if the role of Trai would diminish if DAS worked, he said the role of a regulator was like that of the family doctor. If all worked well in the market, Trai will not interfere.

But it was the prime duty of Trai to protect the consumer and his right to have channels of his liking on an ala carte basis.

He said this was the rationale for the insistence on MSOs to create capacity for 500 channels even if they carried only half of that. At the same time, Trai had brought in the ‘must carry‘ clause to ensure that MSOs carry a channel offered to them by a broadcaster.

He said the role of the cable operator would not diminish with DAS, and said that for the first time, the right of way had been given a legislative sanction in the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Act 2011.

Earlier welcoming the delegates, founder and CEO Anil Wanvari said India had become a jewel in the Asian crown in the pay TV market, adding that it was the home grown market built by cable operators which had developed the ecosystem for television in India.

Vivek Couto, Executive Director of Media Partners Asia, said the recent announcement of relaxation in foreign direct investment should help the media industry in the country. But there was a need to rid the DTH industry of too much taxation, and to reduce the ills of cross-media ownership.

Digitisation was only the means to an end. There would be greater segmentation and the DTH industry will become more aggressive. This may also lead to more niche channels and a new category of advertisers, Couto said.

The high investment in DAS was an opportunity for broadband to grow stronger. But pricing and packaging would be the key factors in DAS, he said, while noting that the DTH industry was likely to grow by 18 per cent over the next decade and thus give greater competition.

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