Technology

No tax sops, Govt firm on digitisation deadline

NEW DELHI: The Government today reiterated that there would be no change in the date for switching off analogue in the four metros on 30 June, and also turned down any requests for incentives or tax concessions.


Addressing an open house with stakeholders – a majority of them multi-system operators, local cable operators, and broadcasters - Information and Broadcasting Ministry Additional Secretary Rajiv Takru said the consumer should realise that digitisation was in his best interest as it would mean greater transparency, an end to piracy, and cheaper entertainment.


When a stakeholder persisted in questioning the official about what would happen if the consumers did not respond, he said: "If the consumer does not care, then it is best to ignore him." He also criticised cable operators who tended to receive on set top box and then supply the signals through wire connections to various homes since this only ruined the quality of the picture and was in any case illegal.


He said the aim of the meet had been to get the local cable operators and all other stakeholders in one forum to listen to their grievances.


Answering a question about licences to cable operators, he said there was a provision of 45 days for final disposal for applications.


While Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) president Roop Sharma claimed that the meeting was a farce since there were very few local cable operators present, she also alleged that digitisation was aimed at benefiting the direct-to-home (DTH) platforms – a charge Takru strongly denied. She said the deadline was impractical and claimed that even in the United States, analogue and digitisation were co-existing.


Dr A K Rastogi, president of the All India Dish Aavishkaar Sangh, pleaded for greater clarity on incentives and the need for educating the cable operators about the benefits of digitisation.


Addressing a press meet later, Takru - who was accompanied on the dais by Joint Secretary Supriya Sahu and Sameer Manchanda who is a member of the Ficci Entertainment Committee – allayed fears of any shortage of digital set top boxes. He said Delhi needed 3.3 million STBs, of which 700,000 had been installed. Another one million was in stock and orders had been placed for 2.8 million. Thus, Delhi will have more STBs than it needs at present. He said that people should not wait till June to install their STBs.


He said it was unfortunate that vested interests were running a propaganda campaign against digitisation, which would help the consumer.


While he reiterated that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) would issue its tariff order by 31 March, he did not expect it to be higher than the present rates. In any case, he said Trai would only define the upper limit of the rates, and MSOs or cable operators were free to charge lower fee.


He said STBs would cost less than Rs 1000 and could be had on rent for as low as Rs 30 a month.


The must-carry clause for Doordarshan and Parliamentary channels would continue even after digitisation, he said in answer to a question.


Referring to creating awareness, he said All India Radio, Doordarshan and private channels were already carrying advertisements or scrolls relating to digitisation.


Asked about negative propaganda by DTH platforms, he said India had a free economy and every person was free to run campaigns to promote his or her own product in a healthy competitive environment.

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