Stay on cable TV digitisation in Chennai no longer applicable

MUMBAI: The process of complete switchover to digital delivery of television channels in Chennai is now likely to begin with the Madras High Court stay on government‘s notification on digitisation no longer applicable.

The two-member bench of Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice Aruna Jagadeesan, while postponing the hearing on a petition against digitisation by four weeks on Thursday, had declined to extend the stay on the government‘s mandate to digitise cable TV.

"Theoretically, Chennai will have blackout of analogue signals on cable networks. But with the Jayalalithaa state government not in support of complete switchover to digital at this stage, it will be difficult to implement disgitisation. Though broadcasters have switched off analogue signals of several channels, the only way Chennai can get completely digitised now is if Sun TV, the most popular channel in the state, decides to blackout its flagship Tamil general entertainment channel," says an industry executive on condition of anonymity.

On the suggestion by the bench, the Chennai Metro Cable Operators‘ Association (CMCOA) has filed a revised petition challenging the government‘s notification on digitisation. It had earlier only sought extension of the digitisation deadline. The Tamil Nadu Cable TV Owners Association (TANCUS) too has filed a plea against the digitisation notification.

The government had set 1 November for switchover to digital delivery of television channels in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Cable TV systems in Mumbai and Delhi have almost entirely switched over to digital but in Kolkata a large section of cable TV households are still receiving analogue signals.

The Madras High Court had on 31 October stayed digitisation in Chennai till 5 November. It thereafter extended the deadline till 9 November and later till 19 November. The judges hearing the case are now new and on Thursday did not grant extension to the stay on digitisation.

The government claimed on 1 November that Chennai has over 1 million TV households and 63 per cent of them had installed set-top boxes (STBs) needed for digital reception of television channels.

The largest multi-system operator (MSO), Tamil Nadu government-owned Arasu Cable TV Corporation, does not have the STBs to install in homes of customers of cable operators. It has said it requires one million STBs but has so far placed an order for 0.2 million STBs from Pune-based Sterlite Technologies.

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