Friday, 1 June 2012

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. 

It is very strange how the whole process is being managed by the Ministry. I still wonder what interest the MIB officials and TRAI have in doing the impossible, enforcing a technology in 100 million households in shortest of time not even attempted by the rich and developed countries. Hardly 50 % of consumers may get the STBs by 30th June. Even digital feeds have not reached some areas of the Metros to be given to the LCOs. 
MSOs have not yet declared their content packages for consumers. They have not even decided on revenue share for the LCOs. Consumers are being forced to buy the boxes without even knowing at what rate they will get the digital services. TRAI has left everything on the MSOs giving them more powers to arm twist the LCOs. The real battle is yet to start on all these issues. Hope we can somehow avoid this chaos next month. 
God knows why DTH companies are so eagerly waiting for the failure of Cable TV Industry, as if they have a role in orchestrating this government move. Their full page ads in newspapers show their utter disrespect for a government policy is meant to benefit cable subscribers. Why is the Ministry accepting this is also exposing its intentions? In no way they can say that DTH and Analog Cable TV are at the same level. One is eight year old industry run by topmost businessmen and media giants and the other is run by small entrepreneurs with limited resources, being forced to get in the race. 
As it has always happened in the past, only courts will decide the fate of the industry now. And if that happens, it will be a shameful day for the government. It will expose the incapability or the bad intentions of the policy makers, right from making a faulty law to manipulated regulations. 
Broadcast Asia 2012 is being held in Singapore from 19-22 June 2012, and we hope to see you there surveying new technologies and trends. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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