Saturday, 1 December 2012

December 2012

3/12/12 -- News Corp-owned publishing company Harper Collins has ended its almost 10 year joint-venture with Aroon Poorie-promoted Living Media India to go solo in the growing Indian market.

Digitalisation Commences in Phase II Cities

I&B Ministry reached the finish line of Phase I of digitalisation on 31 October 2012 with a great result that would put countries like the US and UK to shame where they could not finish the process in seven years. Ministry announced that its achievement in Mumbai was more than 100%, Delhi 97% and Kolkata 85%, Chennai is still waiting for the High Court verdict for its deadline extension and Arasu, the state owned Cable TV network is still waiting for its supply of STBs from China.
Sad part is that all this digitalisation is on papers only. No KYC forms have been filled for SMS & Billing, A-La-Carte rates and in some cases even the package rates were not announced by 01 November, consumers are still in dark about the subscription and ownership of the STBs they have been forced to install. It is a very strange way of implementing digitalisation highly unlike in a democracy.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

November 2012

2/11/12 -- Taj TV Ltd has retained the television broadcast rights for West Indies cricket for a period of seven years from January 2013.

What US couldn't do in 7 years, we did in 7 months

Finally the day of reckoning has come for I&B Ministry after the digital era dawns on 1st November and people endorse its claim of a grand success in digitalizing the cable TV industry in the four metros. This will also pave way for the second phase of the process where thirty eight cities with million plus population are included. There is not enough time left for this phase also as the deadline is 31st March 2012, just five months. What I did not like was the way Ministry officials pressurized the LCOs and the consumers through threatening advertisements joined by DTH operators who had nothing to do with digitalization of cable TV.

Well fought LCOs, Ministry is the Winner

Finally the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting declared itself a winner in the race to seed maximum STB to implement digitisation in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The success came on the night of 31 October when in a press release the Ministry declared itself a winner and gave consolation prize to MSO DEN for seeding maximum STBs in a single day in Delhi. According to the release-

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Last Battle of Digitalization

I still feel our whole exercise of digitalising the cable TV networks is out of focus. Right from drafting the amended law to making various regulations and then implementing them, Government is only concerned that all pay channels must reach viewers and be paid by the subscribers whether they like or not. Once the process started, stringent deadlines, tougher than anywhere in the world were announced. Now ministry's objective seems to be to show complete success in their exercise in the first phase, come what may. It reduced the base line of Cable TV households than what it had been considering since January this year to show higher percentage of STB penetration. Not only this, they have reduced the number of analog TV households by DTH homes in the metros so that number of yet to be digitized cable homes becomes low.
So now with the new figures, supposed to be based on Census 2011, Mumbai has achieved 95%, Chennai 49%, Kolkata 67% and Delhi lags behind with 53% STB penetration. These are quite impressive figures considering that USA and UK took 10 years to achieve this penetration. If we believe these figures then the LCOs must get the complete credit because it is they who do the job of convincing the subscribers to spend money on STB and then pay much more to the pay channels. It is sad that they get the minimum revenue for this.

Monday, 1 October 2012

October 2012

2/10/12 -- ZEE TV celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Who are we fooling ?

The progress of digitalization is being monitored by Information & Broadcasting Ministry and the review suggests about 68% of the digitalization had already been achieved in the 4 metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai by mid September. According to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act 2011, it is mandatory for the cable distribution companies to switch from Analogue Cable Television Network to Digital Addressable System (DAS) by end of December 2014 in entire country in 4 phases. For the digitalization process, the installation of set top boxes (STBs) in the television viewing homes with Cable television is a necessary pre-condition for the digital switch over. The ministry has reviewed the digitalization data by taking into account census data of year 2011. The same data has also been verified with the help of data received from MSOs and DTH companies.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

September 2012

1/9/12 -- The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has strongly criticised the I&B Ministry for never having 'bothered' to monitor the implementation of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995, a central legislation.

Telcom operators won’t be able to charge extra for SMS or phone calls on special occasions

The customers would not have to pay extra charges for calls or SMSes beyond their existing tariff plans on festival days like Diwali and New Year, says a TRAI directive issued on Sep 14, 2012. 
"The charges for calls or SMSs on 'blackout' days shall not exceed the rate in the tariff plan in which the consumer is enrolled," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said. It needs to be clarified if the Blackout days have been mentioned in the plan the customer has enrolled for, those blackout days will stay till the plan period. 

Cloud Computing a new era

Cloud computing is the latest technology buzzword these days. Cloud computing directly links the data of the computer users with the World Wide Web. It enhances the computing experience, since users can access the same data from anywhere in the world. They don't need to worry about having their personal computers, or laptops with them. The computer users can store things online on the storage of the cloud servers they have access to. 

Hopes are being betrayed

All estimates of TRAI and Ministry regarding digitalisation are going haywire. First the deadline for the Phase I was shifted from 30 June to 31 October 2012. Then the timeline for signing `RIO agreements between broadcasters and the MSOs was shifted to 21 August. Nothing much has happened till now when the deadline is just 60 days away. Only Mumbai has achieved 50% of STB penetration. Other metros are just around 30%. This way it will be difficult to achieve the deadline of October 31st too. Moreover, not signing the RIOs is hampering further progress and TRAI is threatening to cancel the licenses of the MSOs who have not been able to sign them till now. 
One thing I can't understand, why is the Ministry not realising that the policy of compulsory digitalisation of cable TV is not the need of the day in India. Present delays are at the Broadcaster, MSO and LCO level only. Consumers are yet to face the heat of compulsory digitalisation. What if millions of people reject buying an STB even after the deadline? Will the government order their disconnection? How will the government get expected Tax revenue if there are no consumers? It is definitely a precarious situation. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Why DTH Feels Insecure?

The Day I&B Ministry released their first ad promoting mandatory digitalisation of Cable TV industry, there was an ad of the same size of half page by a DTH operator trashing the cable STB as a 'Dabba”. 
Another DTH company states in their full page ad in newspapers that 'cable will seize to exist 'from 01 July. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August 2012

1/8/12 -- 14th meeting of the Task Force was held in New Delhi. The meeting was chaired by the Addl. Secretary (I&B).

DTH Operators Demoralised

While digitalisation of Cable TV in the metros has been deferred by the government ,worst hit are the DTH operators who wanted to cash in on failure of the fragmented cable industry in fully complying with the stringent government regulations, particularly in the initial stages of the process when even the subscribers are not well prepared . Although DTH already being a fully digital service is well entrenched since eight years, it has no reasons to feel insecure but the conditions under which it is operating makes it a struggling service, mainly because it has to compete with many small players running analog cable networks with very low ARPU. 
We dedicate this issue to DTH service in India, speaking to many experts in the field to know the present and the future of the service and also analyse the service with our own inputs. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Great Betrayal

The present amendment to the Cable TV Act and subsequent regulations drafted to satisfy the hidden agenda in the DAS Law has lead to the present stalemate in implementing Digitalisation in the country. This will be one of the major factor for its failure as these regulations have been drafted with lot of assumptions grossly neglecting the ground realities. 
Recent extension of deadline for the first phase of digitalization pertaining to the four metros coming just 10 days before the deadline of 01 July itself is an indication that something has drastically gone wrong; Perhaps, people at the helms of affairs did not do their home work properly and took the ground realities seriously. Achieving just 25% of STB penetration instead of 100% expected by 30 June is a shame for the planners who have, for some reasons played with the hopes of the industry. This means that the deadlines and the inputs for the process were not commensurate with the realities. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

July 2012

2/7/12 -- Two petitions were filed in TDSAT, one by DigiCable and the other by a group of independent MSOs of Delhi including Delhi Distribution Company(DDC), Home Cable and other MSO(I) against TRAI’s tariff order.

Ist Phase Deadlines Extended

As expected the Ministry has extended the first phase deadlines to 30 October 2012. It has given six months from 30th April 2012, the day the Cable TV Rules were notified as required by the DAS Amendment Act 2011. In fact, this was one of the demands of the independent MSOs who wanted to start their own business rather than become distributor of a large MSO. Given the opportunity and the time most of the large cable operators who have become independent MSOs in the big cities would like to go this way unless the government, in connivance with the broadcasters, make life difficult for them to enable their own digital headends. 
The first shock TRAI and the Ministry has received in the process is in the form of carriage fee demands by the MSOs averaging to ` 2.00 per subscriber per month as against TRAI chairman JS Sarma’s estimate of ` 50- ` 1 per subscriber per year. How wrong was he to have said that Digitalisation would end carriage fee woes for broadcasters? 

Friday, 1 June 2012

June 2012

1/6/12 -- 10th meeting of Task Force for Implementation of Digitalisation of Cable TV held under the Chairmanship of Mr Rajiv Takru.

Digital Switchover - Are we on the Right Track?

Indian cable TV industry is at a very crucial turning point, when not only it is undergoing a switchover from analog transmission to digital, it is undergoing a change in its structure as dictated by the government and the regulator. Cable Operators, who were running the industry for the last 25 years are being pushed behind the scene, leaving space to some big media houses that already enjoy large scale vertical monopolies in the business.  Considering the way digitalization is being implemented through hurriedly drafted regulations, without any consideration for thousands of LCOs threatened with unemployment and millions of subscribers who cannot afford the STBs and the Pay Channels, industry is definitely being pushed into a chaotic situation by the incumbent bureaucracy. What USA and Europe could not achieve in 12 years, we are trying to achieve in three years ignoring the fact that our economy is in shambles, GDP has come down to 6.5, number of poor is growing every year, power and food shortage is perennial and we have no adequate manufacturing infrastructure in place.  

Digitalisation - Going from bad to worse

As deadline for the first phase of digitalisation ie 30 June 2012 is coming closer, speculations are in the air that it may be deferred for a few months. Already there are two cases filed in the courts in Delhi and Mumbai respectively against the unrealistic deadlines and unviable revenue share. 
Cable Operators in the Metros are also approaching local authorities to help them seed the STBs as per the government mandate as they are complaining that the distributors of MSOs are not providing sufficient number of STBs for their consumers. As STBs are in short supply, they are seeding STBs first in their own direct points, thus endangering the livelihood of other LCOs who would be asked to shut shop after the blackout day of 1 July 2012 if they do not seed the STBs in their network. In Delhi, operators have even demanded police protection against any public outrage on 1st July. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Industry upset over DAS Regulations

After a long wait Ministry notified the Cable TV Rules and the TRAI issued the Interconnect and Tariff Orders at the end of the last month, just 60 days before the first phase ends. Some provisions of these regulations were expected but some of them which were not even discussed in the open-house were a rude shock to many. 
At the outset, it appeared that Ministry as well as TRAI had well planned the move to release the regulations late so that operators who were planning to operate independently were discouraged considering the huge investments and insufficient time for the first phase. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May 2012

01/05/12 -- 8th meeting of the Task Force on Digitalisation of Cable TV held under the Chairmanship of Addl. Secretary(I&B).

LCO’s Journey to end Soon

The much awaited regulations for DAS areas scheduled to be issued by 31st March have finally come at the fag end of April. Only 60 days are left for the first phase to be over. How does the ministry expect things to roll out in this condition, is beyond my comprehension. Many cable operators who want to install their own headends and operate independently are unable to do so because of this uncertainty. They need time to get their license from I&B, get the content and install their Headends. 
All cable operators are apprehensive of their huge investments going waste, which they can hardly afford, particularly now when they may lose their livelihood permanently if I&B Ministry is adamant in imposing the deadlines without coming out with supporting regulations and also insisting that every headend provides 500 digital channels. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

No Unregistered Channels on Cable Networks - Cable Television Networks (Regulation) -- Second Amendment Bill, 2011

The passage of the Cable TV bill for Digitisation of cable TV in India has been accomplished in such a great hurry, without even completing the recommendation of TRAI given in 2010. However, an infructuous Bill called the Second Amendment to Cable TV Act Bill, is pending finalization in the Standing Committee of the Parliament on Communication and IT.  Very few in the industry know the existence of this Bill that will restrict the transmission of any unregistered channel on cable TV networks. Very introduction of such a Bill makes me suspicious of government intentions when there are already many provisions in the existing Cable TV Act that do not permit any cable operator to transmit any unauthorized content. Also, Guidelines for Downlinking do restrict downlinking of any unregistered TV channel.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

April 2012

1/4/12 -- The last word on the BCCI-Nimbus dispute is still not out as the sports marketing company has moved the apex court against a Bombay High Court directing it to furnish a bank guarantee of `3.05 billion.

Budget 2012-13 -- No Support to Digitalisation

l though Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has reiterated that it will adhere to the Sunset date for switching off analogue, starting from 01 July 2012, little has been done to facilitate the move in terms of financial incentives, tax exemptions, duty waiver, infrastructure recognition as recommended by the Regulator TRAI in 2010.

A Budget without Cheers

The first setback to I&B Ministry’s Cable TV Digitalisation plan was rejection of all its proposals to provide financial incentives to the industry through the new Budget 2012-13 by the Finance Minister. Instead, 2% increase in Service tax will make things more difficult for all operators. Overall, the Budget this year does not bring any cheer for the industry. 
It is also very strange that knowing fully well that many essentials like the tariff, interconnect regulations, equipment standards, infrastructure issue, content availability to digital networks, licensing and registration are not in place, Ministry officials are literally bullying the Cable Operators to digitalise or perish. During its first open house discussion with the industry organized by FICCI, Rajiv Takru, the Additional Secretary, I&B Ministry reiterated that even if no rules and regulations were in place, operators must start seeding STBs in consumer homes in the metros. Using an almost threatening language, he said that no additional time will be given beyond 30 June 2012 for the Phase-I and analog transmissions will be completely stopped after that. God knows from where does he get this confidence to be so certain that things can be done this way. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

March 2012

1/3/12 -- Kolkata Knight Riders has bolstered its squad by signing up four domestic cricketers -Debabrata Das and Iresh Saxena from Bengal, Saurashtra's Chirag Jani and Kerala's Sanju Samson.

Doubts pour in for DAS Implementation

Finance Ministry rejecting the demands of I&B Ministry for providing financial sops to the broadcast industry, to facilitate fast and smooth implementation of digital addressability has upset the whole process. It is surprising why I&B Ministry hurried up for passing such an important legislation, that would impact 150 million TV households without judging the priorities of the government, demand of the people and economics of the process. Such a hurried step will never stand the test of the time and may go down the drain like CAS in 2003. I am afraid; so much effort made for taking such a progressive step may not go waste and put the industry back to where it was. I sincerely hope, it does not happen this time. 

Much More Needs to be Done for Digitalization

Media is abuzz with the news regarding implementation of digital cable in the country after the notification of the latest amendment in the Cable TV Act, mandating total digitalization of all cable networks by 31 December 2014 was issued in December. However, different factions of the industry are projecting different views on the subject to suit their business plans. This is causing a lot of confusion in the minds of the masses who are the most affected from the new law. Unfortunately, there is no one to project the point of view of the masses because, their plight will be known only after the government decides to switch off analog cable on 01 July 2012 in the four metros and force them to go for the DTH service or go without the TV entertainment. So far, government is also taking them granted.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Give Cable a Level Playing Field

Cable TV industry is at the threshold of digitalization that will help not only the whole broadcasting industry but will also help the Nation take a great leap forward in the era of Convergence. In the convergence world every 10% increase in broadband penetration increases the National GDP by 1.4 percent. Last 20 years’ neglect of the industry has cost the nation very heavy leaving the cable TV infrastructure fragmented and in poor state. It is not practical to finish the job by 2014 but a beginning is always a good new.
This is a known fact that telecom companies have failed to achieve the broadband penetration in the last ten years. Wireless broadband is never a robust solution and technology changes fast. Fiber optic cables are the best way to gain broadband reach for many years to come. Today, cable operators reach 100 million household and can carry much higher bandwidth than the telecom companies. TRAI knows this and have relied upon the cable networks for providing almost 50% of broadband connections by 2014 in their draft National Broadband Plan.

Cable Industry needs Restructuring

The regulations should be made to benefit the consumers and protect the interest of thousands of small entrepreneurs who have been building up the large Cable TV infrastructure for the last twenty years, so that lakhs of people working in small networks and in supporting organizations do not go out of employment to please a few powerful and rich business houses. 
This concern was amply visible in the parliament during discussions on the Digitalization Bill recently, where every MP, particularly those coming from rural areas voiced their fear of small cable operators losing their business to the big companies and millions of poor subscribers deprived of cable TV entertainment as they would not afford to purchase the STBs. Please be known that the Minister of Information and Broadcasting had assured the Parliament that this would not happen and these concerns will be adequately addressed in the rules and regulations. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

February 2012

1/2/12 -- The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has been asked by the Central Information Commission to provide details of the shareholding by Kalanithi Maran in the direct-to-home (DTH) platform, Sun Direct. The CBI had earlier registered a case against Kalanidhi Maran, his younger brother and former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran regarding Aircel-Maxis deal with linkage to investment in Sun Direct.

Industry badly needs to be restructured

There is a hectic activity going on in the industry in preparation for implementing digitalisation. TRAI had put up a consultation paper for comments from the industry and surprisingly there are 83 entries in the comment list, never happened before. This is the first time in the history of Cable TV that so many people have responded to the consultation. Another surprise is that the respondents include many last mile cable operators who hardly raised their voice ever. 
This shows that this time industry stake holders are serious in implementing digitalization and do not want it to fizzle out like the CAS implementation in 2003. TRAI's consultation has raised some very serious questions on the intention of the regulator. Most of the questions lead to providing benefits to the broadcasters as if they are the most harmed people by the disorganized structure of the industry. In my point of view, this is a very wrong focus as and such hurried regulations that ignore the basic requirement of a robust Cable TV infrastructure meant to lead us to a higher broadband penetration will lead us to nowhere and the industry will remain where it is.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Full Digitalisation: For Whom ?

It is quite surprising that in a country where implementation of addressability (CAS) was held up in 2003, with the excuse that the public perception was against it as STBs were being forced on consumers to watch 'pay' channels, we are now forcing STBs on all consumers to watch 'pay' as well as Free-to-Air (FTA) channels. How has the situation changed within these seven years that we want even the poorest of the poor subscriber to buy a set-top-box to see his daily dose of entertainment from some FTA channels? 
The Cable Act amendment passed in 2003 mandated all 'pay' channels to pass through an addressable system using a set-top-box whereas one did not require any gadget to see the basic package of FTA channels. The amendment was drafted after long discussions with the stake holders and the bill went through the Parliament just like the present Bill. However, the implementation was halted on flimsy grounds. 

Much More Needs to be Done for Digitalization

Media is abuzz with the news regarding implementation of digital cable in the country after the notification of the latest amendment in the Cable TV Act, mandating total digitalization of all cable networks by 31 December 2014 was issued in December. However, different factions of the industry are projecting different views on the subject to suit their business plans. This is causing a lot of confusion in the minds of the masses who are the most affected from the new law. Unfortunately, there is no one to project the point of view of the masses because, their plight will be known only after the government decides to switch off analog cable on 01 July 2012 in the four metros and force them to go for the DTH service or go without the TV entertainment. So far, government is also taking them granted. 

You cannot sideline the LCOs

Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 has been amended last month to introduce mandatory digitalization of all cable TV networks in India by December 2014. It is surely a revolutionary step and was due since long but not in the way it has been brought now. 
On the surface it looks good to see the 100 million analog cable TV households getting a complete digital signal within the next three years. This means, all these households will be broadband enabled. This will take our economy miles ahead because for every 10% increase in internet penetration, country's GDP rises by 1.4%. Can we really achieve this? 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

January 2012

3/1/12 -- Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's appeal challenging the probe by the Election Commission into the authenticity of his expenses during the 2009 state assembly polls allegedly involving paid news will be heard on 3 February.

Ring in the Digital, ring out the Analog

Year 2012 has come with many hopes for the Industry. Digitalisation Bill getting through the Parliament has been the biggest achievement in 2011. Frankly, there is a lot of fuss but no direction for the industry to move on to. Many rules and regulations for implementing Digitalisation are being framed by the regulator TRAI. Stake holders have demanded clarification on tariff, revenue share, basic packages etc. from TRAI. Ministry is also planning a massive public awareness campaign. 
We only have the deadlines to wean out the analog. How long will it take for TRAI to draft the regulations and how long the government will take to implement them is any one's guess. The fact is more than 30 recommendations of TRAI on various needs of the industry are in the cold storage of the Ministry waiting approval. Surprisingly, the television news media, which is always looking for even a trivial issue to create news, never found 'Digitalisation' as an exciting news. We did not see any discussion or coverage of one of the most historic moment of the industry on any news channel. 

Can Infrastructure be Shared in Broadcasting Sector

Broadcasting Industry today has grown to an enormous size in the country. Each Distribution Platform Operator (DPO) retransmits on an ave...