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'Rolling out of Cas has been the most significant development'

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Lots of consumer centric stipulations have been made in the said Regulations which, among other things, include establishment of call centres by DTH operators, redressal of consumer complaints within stipulated timeframes and the concept of Nodal Officers to be appointed by DTH operators.

Trai has also issued Interconnect Regulations for DTH services mandating the Broadcasters to come out with Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) for DTH operators and provision of channels on a la-carte basis by broadcasters to DTH operators under the said RIO.

Trai has also come out with a Tariff Order for non-Cas areas whereby not only the price freeze, which was already in operation, has been continued, but now even the ceiling in respect of cable rates have also been provided at the retail level.

In addition, Trai has also stipulated the provision of a la carte channels to MSO/Broadcasters in non-Cas areas. The order has created a lot of hulchul in the industry.

Cross media ownership issue and restriction in holding shares within electronic media and distribution sector may act as an impediment to the overall growth of the sector

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No previous order/Regulation of Trai had generated as much heat and controversy as the present Tariff order for non-Cas areas. While the MSO and cable operators have welcomed it, the broadcasters on the other hand have severely criticised it, as in their view their commercial interest have not been adequately taken care of by Trai. The broadcasters are arguing that the present tariff order would benefit only one segment – the MSOs as no a la-carte choice can be provided to consumers in non-addressable analog environment because of technological impediments. Their grievance is that the Regulator has not addressed the problem of “under-declaration”. The matter is currently sub judice in the TDSAT.

The Trai is in the process of issuing its recommendation to the government on IPTV and Mobile TV which would give further impetus to the proposed digitisation.

The Cable and Satellite Television sector is the only sector where both Service Tax and Entertainment Tax are levied at present which amounts to double taxation. It may be mentioned that levy of both service tax and entertainment tax ultimately make the services costlier for the consumers. It is pertinent to point out that when a movie/ film is shown in a cinema, only entertainment tax is levied and no service tax is charged for screening the movie in a cinema theatre.

Both DTH services and cable services are at present reeling under the heavy burden of multiple taxation and levies (such as license fee, service tax, entertainment tax, VAT on customer premises equipment which cumulatively add up to as high as 56 per cent) which are acting as an impediment to the growth and development of these services. Such a high multiple taxation and other levies vis-?-vis other sectors has resulted in these services becoming costlier and unaffordable for the masses.

Accordingly, to ensure proper growth and development of this sector, the multiple levies/ taxation structure needs to be rationalised.

Similarly, the customs duty structure on STBs and other equipments which are quite crucial for digitization also needs rationalisation in line with IT and Telecom sectors.

It is imperative that to promote the growth of digital platforms, duty structure/concession applicable to IT and Telecom sector be extended to the broadcasting industry to provide a level playing field

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All in all, year 2007 has been excellent for the Broadcast, DTH and Cable sector, and would be remembered as the year in which the solid foundations have been laid for digitisation and to create an environment enabling the broadcasting and distribution sector to takeoff and move towards the path of growth and development at an accelerated pace.

In the present era of convergence the distinction between Broadcasting, Telecommunication and Information Technology is disappearing very fast. It is therefore imperative that in order to promote the growth of digital platforms, duty structure/concession applicable to IT and Telecom sector be extended to the broadcasting industry and it is treated as part of telecom infrastructure to provide a level playing field.

The need of the hour is to create the same kind of conducive environment by the government by creating level playing field and granting fiscal incentives and concessions to the sector as has been done for the telecom sector and this sector would also register phenomenal growth in coming years.

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