MIB report: 50% digital STBs seeded during DAS' first three phases

NEW DELHI: If the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) is to be believed, then first three phases of on going rollout of digital addressable system have already accounted for 50 per cent of digitisation as out of targeted 140 million set-top-box requirement, 70 million have been installed. Evolving ground realities may be different, however.

The catch in the MIB’s annual report for 2016-17, put on the ministry’s website Thursday, is that the government has taken the Census 2011 as the base for calculating the total number of TV households in India, which has been pegged at 117 million. Adding an incremental 20 per cent for multiple TV homes and TV sets at offices and other places like restaurants, etc, MIB states total requirement for boxes was 140 million --- a figure that may be different from ground realities.

“Total STBs required by adding 20 per cent provision for multiple TV (sets) in houses and TVs in offices/shops is 14 crore (140 million),” MIB’s annual report says, while adding that in digitisation’s first three out of the total four phases, “7 crore (70 million) STBs have already been installed.”

However, in an evolving world while BARC’s latest data, unveiled February 2017, estimates the Indian TV households at 183 million, the MIB annual report itself quotes, at another place, a FICCI-KPMG report of 2016 as India being “the world’s second largest TV market after China” having “175 million TV households...”

The MIB report goes on elaborate that the first two phases of digitisation achieved 30 million seeding of boxes, while estimating the requirement for boxes for ongoing Phase IV, which comprises small towns and villages in rural hinterlands of India, to be 70 million.

But amidst these confounding and confusing numbers being bandied around by the government, it admits that digitisation, pushed by MIB and regulator TRAI since 2012, has increased tax collections both for the State and the Central governments.

Pointing out that cable TV digitisation has brought transparency in the whole eco-system, making it difficult for MSOs and LCOs to under-declare subscriber base and evade taxes, the MIB report highlights, entertainment tax collection in states increased from Rs. 157 crore (Rs. 1570 million)  in 2012-13 to Rs. 358 crore (Rs. 3580 million) in 2015-16.

Further, the government also admits that digital cable TV networks were vital infrastructure for penetration of broadband through which e-government services could be deployed. Listing out the benefits of digitisation, the MIB report says, “(Though) no formal impact assessment of the cable TV digitisation has been carried out, data has been collected from different stakeholders, which indicates...major benefits from digitisation have started accruing.”

The benefits are not restricted to government in the form of tax revenues, but also increased choice to consumers, including HD channels. “From the data received from the MSOs, it is observed that in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, on an average, 300 SD and 20 HD channels are being carried by each MSO. Subscribers have choice to choose from these large numbers of channels...not possible in an analog regime,” MIB clarifies.

Action Taken Report on Complaints Against TV Channels

During the period 1 April 2016 to 21 December 2016, MIB issued advisories, warnings and orders to TV channels on receiving complaints from various sections of the population.

There was one general advisory given to news &current affairs TV channels regarding telecast of incidents related to Cauvery water dispute with due caution and restraint; nine specific advisories to adhere to the Programme & Advertising Codes; four warnings directing the TV channel to strictly comply with programme and advertising norms and three orders to TV channels to go off air for varying number of days.

According to the MIB, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), as part of its self-regulation mechanism, has formulated a Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) received and considered 1,451 complaints from 2014 to July, 2016 and passed 26 orders. It also issued one guideline and nine advisories.

The Broadcast Content Complaints Council (BCCC), according to MIB, received 16,257 complaints from 16 April, 2014 to 20th June, 2016. During the period April, 2015 to July, 2016 industry-formed advertising regulator ASCI received and considered 2,020 complaints against advertisements, upholding 1,271 of them.

Transponder Capacity Constraints

While enumerating the highlights, achievements and also hurdles in the Indian broadcast and cable sector, MIB holds out some hope for all those Indian users of  satellite services that capacity crunch could get addressed

“There is some constraint with regard to availability of transponder capacities, but it is expected that with greater demand will also come the supply,” MIB says without divulging how the growing demand for satellite capacity would be met.

User s of satellite services in India, including teleports, DTH ops and Vsat players, have been severely constrained by lack of KU-band transponders as India’s space agency ISRO has not been able to fill the demand-supply gap despite several launches, while steadfastly refusing to ease norms for renting capacity on foreign satellites.

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