What really happened at the 16th DAS Task Force meeting

NEW DELHI: Even as the government has once again reiterated that it is firm on Phase IV of digital addressable systems for cable television to commence on 31 December this year, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (MIB) has for the first time admitted that the Law Ministry had observed that the order passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court staying Phase III “appears to have all lndia applicability”.

(The Ministry had sought this opinion in view of the Mumbai high court making a reference to the Kusum Ingots case which had said that if one high court gives an order, others can give similar orders if similar circumstances exist. had reported in January this year that the MIB had told the Punjab and Haryana high court that it had 'decided not to press the requirement of having a STB as for now till the decision of the cases which are pending before various other high courts’).

The MIB affirmed this at the 16th DAS IV Task Force meeting held on 26 July in Delhi. MIB secretary Ajay Mittal who presided over the meeting said digitisation is a process which cannot be stopped. He said that Ministry has been proactive in the matter of dealing with all the court cases filed by some MSOs for extension of cut-off date for phase lll. He suggested that the stakeholders should supplement the efforts made by Ministry to dispose off these cases.

He cautioned that MSOs and LCOs should desist from transmitting or re-transmitting un-authorized TV channels which are not permitted by the Ministry. He informed that Ministry has written to all the district collectors/magistrates in this regard to take action under the law against those who are violating the law.

Advisor DAS Yogendra Pal told the Task Force Meeting for DAS that there were no cases in twenty states but the MIB was not in a position to issue orders in view of the advice given by the law ministry.

However, he said following the decision to transfer all DAS cases to the Delhi high court following a petition in the Supreme Court by the MIB, 29 cases have so far been transferred by various courts to Delhi and 18 cases are still left to be transferred.

He said 62 cases had been filed by some multi-system operators (MSOs) in various courts in the country for extension in the deadline of Phase lll. Out of these 62 cases, 12 cases had been disposed off by respective courts and 3 cases had been withdrawn by the petitioners. Two months extension in the deadline was granted by the Andhra Pradesh high court. Both Mumbai high court and the Aurangabad Branch of that court had passed orders to the effect that the order passed by the Telengana bench of the high court of Andhra Pradesh had all India applicability in view of the Supreme Court judgment in Kusum Ingots case.

Two cases are scheduled for hearing by the Delhi High Court on 13 September 2016. He added that the MIB as approached the Solicitor General to defend the cases and for an early hearing of the cases in Delhi high court. He added that a special leave petition (SLP) is also being drafted against the order of Aurangabad Branch of Mumbai high court.

The Ministry had recently conducted one workshop with state level nodal officers in Delhi and three regional workshops with state and district level Nodal Officers at Dehradun, Shimla and lmphal.

The Joint Secretary said that there were a reported 6000 MSOs in the country but only 965 MSO had got registrations so far and about 200 applications are under process in the Ministry.

She requested the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, the News Broadcasters Association, and the ARTBI to tell their member broadcasters to check with all MSOs with whom they have interconnect agreements whether they were registered and if they have not applied for it so far, advise them to do so immediately. She said that broadcasters should be having the details of all MSOs operating in phase lV areas in their data base which can be crosschecked with the list of registered MSOs on MIB website to identify the MSOs who have not applied for registration so far. She asked the representatives of broadcasters to send a list of these MSOs operating in phase lV areas but who have not applied for MSO registration to Ministry by 7 August 2016. She added that as a next step the broadcasters should communicate with these MSOs and ask them to apply for MSO registration if they want to continue to operate as MSOs in DAS notified areas.

A representative of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India emphasized that broadcasters should start entering into interconnect agreements with MSOs and likewise MSOs should enter into interconnect agreements with LCOs for phase lV areas. He said that broadcasters should collect STB requirements from local cable operators in phase lV areas.

The representative of IMCL said broadcasters have offered separate digital and analogue rates in phase lV market and suggested that TRAI may issue an advisory/directive that there should be only analogue rate till 31 December 2016.

TRAI said no such advisory which is outside the regulations can be issued. He said put of 900 TV channels, about 600 channels are free to air (FTA) channels and operate through about 2000 LCOs from their head ends. He suggested that in their case the State Governments can asks these LCOs to apply for MSO registration.

Joint secretary Jaya said MSOs had sought an extension from the courts on the plea that broadcasters had not signed interconnect agreement with them. She said agreements between broadcasters important for further signing of agreements between MSOs and LCOs. She said that broadcasters, MSOs and LCOs should prioritize this issue everywhere and make concerted efforts to seal the agreements for phase lV areas by August 2016.

TRAI said all MSOs who have any issue with broadcasters with regard to signing of interconnect agreements should write to the TRAI. He added that TRAI would review the situation in this regard from time to time.

A representative of a cable operator association from Maharashtra (MocF) mentioned that about 200 LCos have signed interconnect agreements with Hathway in Maharashtra. He suggested that other large MSOs like IMCL & Siticable may also enter into agreements with LCos there on the basis of model inter-connect agreement.

He complained that the post offices in Maharashtra were asking for no objection certificates from the offices of the district magistrate for renewal of registration to LCOs. He was told that with regard to this issue, which was raised in the last meeting also, proper reference with details should be sent to MIB He also wanted to know whether an MSO registered with MIB and operating as an LCO also is required to obtain the LCO registration from local the post office.

A representative of CEAMA mentioned that orders for STBs had peaked in October 2015. Thereafter, except for supply orders from DTH operators and some small MSOs, no major orders have been received by them. He suggested that the MSOs planning for procurement for phase lV should place the orders now for timely delivery of STBs. He re-confirmed that they have the capacity to meet the complete requirements of phase lV.

Representatives of state nodal officers from the Himachal Pradesh, Telengana, UP, Uttarakhand, MP, Karnataka, Bihar and J & K briefed about the various measures undertaken by them to implement the last phase of digitisation in their states. Most of them confirmed that monitoring committees have been set up and they are holding regular meetings to monitor the progress.

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