30 June deadline for 4 metros sacrosanct: Uday Varma

MUMBAI: Information & Broadcasting Secretary Uday Varma Wednesday said the government was committed to the 30 June deadline for the complete switchover from analogue to digital in the four metros, putting an end to speculation that the the industry would get more preparatory time.

Delivering the keynote address at the 13 edition of Ficci Frames here, Varma said :"The government has laid out a roadmap for digitisation of broadcasting and is committed to time bound transformation of the broadcast chain, especially the cable television distribution chain.

The cable services will switch to digital mode in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai as early as July 2012 and the whole country will go digital by 31 December, 2014.

“It is a unique position where there is no political opposition for it (digitisation). In terms of what the government had to do, there is nothing much left. Yes, it is a difficult task but to change the status quo has always been challenging with gains and losses for all the stakeholders,” Varma stated.

Elaborating further, he said: "30 June is not an unrealistic date. “We have set up mechanisms , task force and interest groups.”

The I&B Ministry will go back to the revenue ministry, seeking for incentives for digitisation. When this was proposed earlier, the concerned ministry had certain reservations and would need some clarifications.

On the promotion of digitisation, Varma said the first task is to ensure that people at large are accepting the shift. “We are at the threshold of a revolution and large changes are going to happen in a wider sense. And most of them will be beneficial for the stakeholders,” Varma opined.

Varma also informed that the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), the nodal body for approving the FDI, has already circulated the note on raising the FDI limit in the cable and DTH sector. He stressed that there is no serious issue and it should be done soon.

The infrastructure created via digitisation would also help in increasing broadband penetration.

According to Varma, over 80 million analogue TV homes are going digital. "This will make cable the largest provider of digital content."

The government has also approved the proposal to allow 839 new FM radio stations in over 250 towns of the country, the auction process for which has already been initiated.

He further said that the government is laying special focus on community radio and informed that as many as 1000 community/campus radio stations will be set up across the country, to give voice to local aspirations.

Outlining other initiatives taken by the I&B Ministry, Varma said the government is mulling setting up single window facility for shooting clearances in India in a bid to promote India as a cinema shooting destination in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

Meanwhile, Trai chairman Dr JS Sarma, who also was speaking at the annual media conclave, said that digitisation is an “essential ingredient” for India’s growth.

Sarma said the sale of analogue TV sets has gone down while people are trying to acquire better TVs and better “digital content”.

Trai is also open to reviewing the must provide clause and other regulations , if there is a need.

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