STB shortage, lack of awareness continue to plague DAS implementation, DD & AIR to help in publicity

NEW DELHI: With the third phase of digital addressable system (DAS) expected to be implemented by 1 January 2016, the single biggest challenge facing the government and stakeholders is the dire shortage of set top boxes (STBs).


A senior Information and Broadcasting Ministry source told that the main hurdle was that very few manufacturers were coming forward with proposals despite the government support to the Make in India programme.


This issue and the problem of adequate publicity about the benefits of DAS perplexed those who attended the tenth Task Force meeting on DAS held on 17 August under the chairmanship of Additional Secretary J S Mathur.


Meanwhile, Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) R Jaya said Regional Units were being established at twelve places and these would start operating from September to monitor and report the progress of digitisation in each State/UT. 


While Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA) complained that no major orders were being placed with it by multi system operators (MSOs). A representative of the CEAMA said, "This is the time to place orders if they want the STBs, which are required to be delivered before the cut-off date."


A Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) representative said under the regulations, MSOs and LCOs have to offer STBs to consumers on rent, installment, outright purchase or any other scheme according to the standard tariff package prescribed by it. Any complaint on this issue should be addressed to TRAI. 


A representative of the Uttarakhand Government said adequate number of STBs are not provided by MSOs in the State, resulting in slow progress of digitisation. 


A representative of Maharashtra Cable Operators’ Federation (MCOF) said there are 5000 head-end owners, which are MSOs or LMOs. But many of them had not applied for registration. He apprehended that it may result in some dark areas once the deadline is over. 


Jaya said MSO registrations were still on and any one can apply. She said 349 MSO registrations had been granted till mid-August including 126 provisional ones. Referring to apprehension of dark areas, she said these will be identified through State nodal officers and broadcasters. 

Meanwhile, there was a lengthy discussion about publicity about DAS. ASSOCHAM with some broadcasters had planned a Chetna Yatra from next month covering 450 cities/towns/villages in the country. 

Representatives of direct-to-home (DTH) platforms said they were ready to give free publicity regarding cable TV digitisation if asked. 


A representative of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) said there are financial constraints facing broadcasters. However, they will carry advertisement spots and would be preparing these.


The TRAI representative said it had placed an advertisement on mandatory digitisation on its website. It had also planned to come out with a quarter-page print advertisement in newspapers very soon. 


TRAI is holding five consumer outreach programmes per quarter in each region. From its perspective, awareness about digitisation is happening. The TRAI representative said the advertisement could be shared with MSOs for publicity by them. 


All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan (DD) have been carrying advertisements on mandatory digitisation for several months. It was suggested that Doordarshan may also give video advertisements on cable digitisation in local languages on their popular regional channels in prime time. The Doordarshan representative agreed to get this done. 


A representative of the Gujarat MSO GTPL said they have been carrying out a publicity campaign through scrolls on their local channels and public gatherings. 


A representative of Indusind-Media said a team of about 300 persons had been deployed on this job to carry the campaign.


On the other hand, a representative of an LCO association from West Bengal said they were unaware of the consumer outreach programme arranged by TRAI. It was suggested that members should regularly check the websites of MIB and TRAI for all such information regarding cable digitisation. 


According to Jaya, four regional workshops were held by the Ministry with the State nodal officers of some of the States/UTs to sensitise them about their role and responsibilities in implementing cable TV digitisation in their States. Registered MSOs permitted to operate in these States were also invited in these workshops. 


She said it was heartening to know from these workshops that State Governments are also gearing up to meet the challenge of cable digitisation in their States. The MSOs participating in these workshops said they were carrying publicity awareness campaign on digitisation on their local channels and through pamphlets being distributed by them. 


She added that seven more regional workshops have been planned by the Ministry in 45 days at different places. Another workshop has since been held with the nodal officers from the states in the North East and the registered MSOs operating there on 21 August at Shillong.


A representative of an LCO association from Assam said broadcasters were not providing content to them and they were being forced to come to Delhi for filing cases in TDSAT. The TRAI representative said this was a matter of dispute and TDSAT was the only appropriate forum. But for issues related to regulations, the TRAI regional office in Kolkata could be approached. 


On signing of interconnect agreements, the IMCL representative said it was working on delivery through headend in the sky (HITS) platform besides cable. It was now in the final stage of negotiations with broadcasters. The TRAI representative said all MSOs who had not received any response to their requests for interconnect agreements from broadcasters had been asked to inform TRAI by 24 August and a meeting had been slated with broadcasters on 28 August. 


A representative of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) said deals are happening and parallel negotiations are taking place.

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