Thursday, 1 March 2012

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. 
In any case, industry should not lose heart and strive to adopt the new digital technologies to benefit people. However, we should not forget that India is an extremely large and diverse market where many players can be accommodated but no single player can achieve monopoly. If all stake holders sit together and find their own solutions to help each other, considering that no one can survive without the other, many innovative and practical solutions can be worked out. 
Whereas the DTH players are all preying on the cable subscribers considering them as sitting ducks, after the cable digitalization fails, they forget that subscribers cannot be made fools for a long time. In spite of the hyped information about DTH penetration, research has shown that one out of three DTH subscribers is inactive. Half of the rest may have both, cable and DTH. Subscribers are reluctant to continue with DTH after the end of the first introductory free subscription of three to six months. The truth is that Indian consumers are still not a market for ‘pay’ TV. 
There is a large market, still left for analog TV where going digital is not economical and viable as the networks are too small with only a few subscribers. Major digital market is in the large metros and cities with more than one million subscribers. All MSOs focus their attention here for business. I am surprised, why TRAI does not know this. 
No one in the government is worried about the rural and smaller towns where thousands of small operators run the networks. Subscribers of these networks pay very small subscription, which may be just `50 or less every month. They will not even shift to DTH that demand at least `150/- every month. In such a scenario, why have we mandated complete digitalization, even for FTA channels? I think the government will have to answer this question in the near future. 
I wish the government had focused more on digitalization for a better broadband penetration. But I&B Ministry cannot do that because it is a domain of Communication & IT Ministry. TRAI has a dubious role to play in this game because I have seen their focus change according to the Ministry for which they are working ignoring what the nation demands.

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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