Subhash Chandra urges Govt to stick to 30 June deadline

NEW DELHI: Zee Group chairman Subhash Chandra has urged the Information & Broadcasting ministry to stick to the 30 June deadline for the switchover to digital addressable systems (DAS) in the four metros.

The media baron feels that any postponement of digitisation would "send a wrong signal to the stakeholders as well as investors so far as the policy implementation is concerned".

Chandra, however, said that even if the government considers extending the date because of non-arrival of digital set top boxes, this should not be more than 60 days.

In the letter which was addressed to I&B minister Ambika Soni, a copy of which is with, Chandra said digitisation should be completed by 30 June in areas which are presently under conditional access system - South Delhi, South Mumbai, South Kolkata and whole of Chennai - which will show the government‘s intent in implementing its policy.

Any extension, he said, should be announced only in the last week of June "after detailed deliberations with all the stakeholders so that pace of deployment of STBs is not affected because of any negative sentiments" arising out of any deferment.

"While I appreciate the concerns regarding the availability of STBs, the blanket extension of 5-6 months would adversely affect the STBs off-take and would create a mis-impression in the minds of the stakeholders that Government is not serious in implementing the digitalisation initiative," Chandra said in the letter.

He contended that the notification for cable digitisation came on 11 November last year, thus giving approximately eight months to the stakeholders to make necessary preparations.

"It is pertinent to mention that based on the policy announcement by the Government, the stakeholders have been preparing for the said implementation by making necessary investments in the digital headends, creating optical fibre infrastructure and procurement of STBs etc. The deployment of STBs in the notified areas has also gathered momentum and the consumers are responding positively," the letter read.

While agreeing that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) delayed in bringing out the tariff framework for DAS regime on 30 April, he believed that the contracts between the broadcasters and MSOs and MSOs and LCOs (local cable operators) can be concluded in next 30-35 days.

He said any extension of DAS deadline would not only be detrimental to the sector but would also act as a disincentive for those service providers who have committed the investments in digital infrastructure, STBs and made necessary preparations based on the policy announcement made by the Government.

"The momentum for deployment of set-top boxes would be severely impacted as it would create uncertainties in the minds of the consumers," Chandra held.

He believed that a sufficient number of STBs is under transit and would be available in next fortnight or so. Their deployment by 30 June 2012 may be a concern which can be taken care of by granting a short extension rather than postponing the DAS by five to six months.

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