DAS Phase II commences as analogue TV switched off

NEW DELHI: The second phase of Digital Addressable System (DAS) in India marched on even as the month of March 2013 came to and end as envisioned by the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry. Analogue television signals in 36 cities all over India were clipped even as stay orders were imposed by high courts in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.

However, I&B Ministry sources told that the level of digitisation achieved as on 30 March was 70 per cent in phase II towns, and admitted there was a likelihood of viewers facing blank TV screens in some places.

The sources said that these problems primarily existed in Srinagar which has just 4,300 set top boxes (STBs) installed. The situation in Coimbatore and Vishakapatnam was more serious with almost zero STB deployment on 20 March.

They also added that the estimates had been made based on information received from multi-system operators (MSOs) and making a provision of 20 per cent for multiple TVs in households and TVs in offices/showrooms.

While the seeding of STBs and switch-off of analogue was being overseen by nodal officers in all the cities, the sources said teams would be dispatched to all these cities in the coming days to study the impact and ensure implementation. They insisted that there were ample digital STBs available.

However, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in a letter to I&B Minister Manish Tewari over the weekend requested for an extension of six months in the seven cities in the state that were to switch over to digital addressable system from today: Agra, Allahabad, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Meerut, and Varanasi.

While the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad stayed the introduction of DAS till 9 April in Ahmedabad, the Karnataka High Court issued the stay till 1 April in Bengaluru. The Karnataka High Court will hear cases relating to both Bengaluru and Mysore on 1 April.

Ministry sources confirmed that both High Courts had issued notices to the Union government and the I&B Ministry.

In both case, the petitioners Cable Operators Association of Gujarat through its president Pramod Pandya andKarnataka Cable TV Operators Association president V S Patrick Raju, have said there is confusion about availability of STBs and MSOs are also helpless. Raju has also raised the issue of who owns the STB that is installed at the home of a subscriber – the customer or the LCO.

For the second phase, the 38 specific cities and towns in fourteen states and one union territory which have been listed in the notification are - Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Kanpur, Jaipur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Patna, Indore, Bhopal, Thane, Ludhiana, Agra, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Vadodara, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Rajkot, Meerut, Kalyan-Dombivali, Varanasi, Amritsar, Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad, Solapur, Allahabad, Jabalpur, Srinagar, Visakhapatnam, Ranchi, Howrah, Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Mysore and Jodhpur.

A high-level Monitoring Committee has also been set up to oversee the digitisation process in the entire country, which is expected to be achieved by the end of next year.

In order to facilitate digitization, the Ministry has already issued provisional registration to 30 Independent MSOs to operate in Phase II cities. This would enable these MSOs to operate in their respective cities to provide digital cable TV services.

The Ministry has set up a Task Force exclusively for Phase II cities to oversee and monitor the digitization process. A public awareness Committee has also been constituted in the Ministry for spearheading awareness campaign and all TV channels ran a scroll informing consumers about the deadline for cable TV digitization, as well as an animated commercial.

All India Radio has also started broadcasting radio jingles on its national and regional networks to get the DAS message across. Several other initiatives like an SMS campaign, video spots and prints are on the anvil. The state governments/UTs have already nominated nodal officers in 38 cities of Phase II. The Ministry had recently conducted a workshop for them.

Workshops have been held at some places to take stock of preparedness in Phase II cities and sensitize local MSOs, cable operators and other stakeholders.

The Ministry had set up a Control Room during Phase I, which has continued to function to address the queries of consumers, cable operators and others. The Control Room which also has a toll free number has been receiving a number of calls from consumers of Phase II cities.

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