Arasu gets no DAS licence yet as Govt debates over state-owned cable TV outfits

NEW DELHI: Arasu Cable TV Corp. Ltd, a state government-owned cable television distribution network, has so far failed to get a licence from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to run the network.

Ministry sources told that licences have not been issued to any state-owned organisation for running cable TV networks as recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The broadcast sector regulator had recommended that neither state-owned, local bodies nor religious organisations should be permitted to own TV channels.

Though no final decision has been taken, the matter will lead to a discussion in the Ministry as West Bengal and other states have also sought permission to run TV channels. Permitting one will mean that the Centre will not be able to refuse the others, the sources said.

Interestingly, Arasu applied for a DAS (digital addressable system) licence on 5 July 2012.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2011, that made digitisation mandatory also made it compulsory for all cable companies to get a DAS licence from the government to operate their distribution networks. In the absence of the licence, the operator will not be allowed to operate.

The government has given 11 DAS licences to multi-system operators (MSOs) in Tamil Nadu until now.

Arasu started operations in 2011 after All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam came to power. It had been founded in October 2007 by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) headed by M. Karunanidhi at a time when his family was in a dispute with the Marans, his grandnephews who control Sun TV Network Ltd and MSO SCV. However, plans to project Arasu as a rival of SCV were shelved after the Marans made up with Karunanidhi.

Since its re-launch in September 2011, Arasu has built a network that covers 31 districts in the state (but not Chennai) and reaches 4.9 million households. The number of households serviced by cable companies in the state is estimated at 12 million, according to M.R Srinivasan, general secretary of Chennai Metro Cable TV Operators Association. India has 120 million cable households.

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