NEW DELHI: The deadline for the digitisation of cable television systems in the entire country has been put off to December 2015.
While Phase I of digital addressable system (DAS) came into effect in March last year and Phase II later in the year, the entire process was supposed to be completed by December this year.
Information & Broadcasting Ministry secretary Bimal Julka speaking exclusively to indiantelevision.com said that the government had decided to delay the digitisation deadline by a full year in order to give all those involved enough opportunity to overcome all the unseen hurdles that had come up after the UPA government mandated DAS and the various analogue sunset dates.
He said that the previous UPA government had failed to complete all the required work with regard to regulations, licences, permissions etc and so the current NDA government's I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar - after consulting all the stakeholders - has decided to put off the final date by one year.
Julka was confident that digitisation would be completed well before the end of 2015, but said the new last date had been set keeping in mind the various issues that need resolution.
Earlier, the Ministry had said Phase III covering all urban areas (Municipal Corporations/Municipalities) would be digitised by 30 September 2014 and Phase IV covering the rest of India would be digitised by 31 December 2014.
The DAS process had led to several problems including court cases in various parts of the country. In the first phase for the four metros, Chennai could not be covered because of a stay by the Madras High Court. The second phase covered 38 cities with populations of more than one million. However, reports say that analogue systems are still working not only in the metros but also in these cities.
Furthermore, cable operators feel that the set top boxes being imported are of inferior quality with very few facilities for servicing. The MSOs went to the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) challenging the ratio of profit sharing between the various stakeholders. And TDSAT has been flooded with litigation involving broadcasters, MSOs, LCOs and DTH operators over the past year and a half - coinciding with the government's thrusting digitisation down the throats of those involved in India's relatively unorganised cable TV ecosystem.
Julka said that all these issues had been taken into consideration before taking the decision to put off DAS by a year.