Parliamentary Committee wants extension of digitisation deadline

NEW DELHI: The government has made no signals of deferring the deadline for digitisation in the four metros, but a Parliamentary Committee has indicated that it wants an extension of time.

The government has set 30 June as the date for digitisation in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

Worried that adequate number of set-top boxes may not become available in time, the Committee has said the Department of Electronics and Information Technology should coordinate with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the issue of extension of the proposed deadline for switchover to digital addressable systems in the first phase.

The Standing Committee for Information Technology while examining the demands for grants of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (Communication & Information Technology Ministry) said the manufacturing of STB should lead from the assembling to finding out the solution for the required core technology through Indian R&D initiatives.

It says the proposed extension should be considered after having detailed strategy with regard to manufacturing of the required number of STBs through indigenous production and also finalising the policy issue with regard to providing competitive edge to Indian manufactured STBs.

Need for indigenous STBs

During the deliberations certain crucial Research and Development issues relating to the technology also emerged and the Committee were apprised that it would take some time for the country to become fully self reliant with regard to indigenous production of STBs.

The Committee also observed that even if the Indian industry was able to produce the desired number of STBs by the stipulated timeline for switching over to digitisation, the Government intervention would be required to ensure 100 per cent indigenisation of STBs. In this direction, the Government may consider hiking of the import duty from 5 to 10 per cent.

The Committee noted that STBs are being assembled in India at present and the real challenge is of the card that is going into the system which is a technology mastered by only four or five different manufacturers worldwide. But similar technology has been developed in India as well.

Indian STB cards to be ready in 6 months

The representative of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) told the Committee that India would be ready in about six months for the first prototype of the card which can be manufactured in the country.

The Committee while taking note of the status of R&D in the basic electronic component of the STBs strongly recommended that all the financial support and other support should be provided to C-DAC so that Indian STBs are made available.

The Committee was also apprised that 25 per cent subsidy is proposed to be provided under the modified SIP scheme. The Committee was of the strong opinion that promoting indigenous STBs would definitely provide employment opportunities to our people.

No review of STBs before announcing DAS deadlines

The Committee in a separate report relating to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry also reviewed the implementation of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2011.

It found that the Ministry had not done any survey on the availability of STBs to ascertain the domestic preparedness and self sufficiency in the manufacturing of STBs.

The Committee noted that the Bill for introduction of Digital Addressable system (DAS) had been enacted recently notifying the dates for switching over to DAS from analogue cable services by December 2014.

It said it had been given to understand that following the passing of the above legislation making digitisation mandatory, there is an ongoing demand for STBs in future and there will be large scale demand for STBs to meet the requirement.

Concern over cross-media holdings

Apart from referring to some recommendations of the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad, the Committee noted that some of the stakeholders who deposed before the Committee in the context of examination of The Cable TV (Regulation) Network Second Amendment Bill 2011 brought before the Committee the emergence and growing trend of cross media holdings in the country.

The Committee, therefore, emphasized that the issue merits urgent attention and need to be addressed before it emerges as ‘a threat to our democratic structure.’

It asked the Ministry to formulate the stand on the issue of cross media ownership in coordination with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India after taking into account all related aspects and the prevalent international practice followed by the suitable legislation/guidelines in this regard.

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