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.
In the four metros where digitalization is being monitored, television penetration according to the Ministry is about 80%, with 25.59 lakh DTH subscribers. About 46.71 lakhs set top boxes have already been installed, so by this calculation the digitalization percentage of cable STBs in the said metros turns out to be 68%. The figure has been arrived at despite considering the possibility that many DTH households may also have analog cable connections. About specific data in various cities, the achievement of digitalization in Mumbai is said to be 95%, Kolkata 67%, Delhi 53% and Chennai 49%. The details are provided in the Table below:
As indicated in the table, as per the census figures of 2011, there are 103.76 lakh households in four metros Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata & Chennai. The television penetration in four metropolitan cities is 80% and hence there are 82.59 lakh households with TV sets in four Metro cities. Out of the 25.59 lakh households watch television with DTH connections. Ministry has taken out this figure from total households assuming that no DTH household has a cable connection. Thus this figure has not been taken into account while calculating additional multiple TV homes, making the total cable homes to 68.40 lakhs which is much less than what the ministry has been circulating earlier. There are 46.71 lakh households where the cable Set Top Boxes (STBs) have already been installed. This brings the digitalisation progress to the said 68% of total cable TV households. If the direct to home figures are also added, the digitization percentage increases further to 77 per cent because all DTH connections are digital.
A publicity campaign has also been launched on television as well as in print to make people more aware of the impending digitalization deadline and the print advertisements were printed in the English Dailies along with Marathi, Bengali and Tamil Dailies. There are three video ads shown on the television channels including news channels, general entertainment channels and regional language channels. Three radio advertisements are also being broadcast eight times every day. The same radio ads are also being broadcast on private FM channels as well. The I & B ministry officials have clarified time and again that the digitalization deadline would not be extended further after the expiry of the current deadline of 31st October 2012. They expect the digitalization process to be completed within the said deadline.
Another point of view
There, of course, is a contradictory view as well which says the set top box deployment of has been dismal to say the least, and that achieving digitalization target on the said date would be an extremely difficult task. The Information & Broadcasting Ministry is also worried because there are no agreements in place between multi-system operators (MSOs) and television broadcasters. Since the deals are not in place, cable operators don’t know how they can sell the idea of digitalization to the cable television subscribers. The MSOs have declared their channel packages for the consumers but no a-la-carte rates have been declared.
Why is the Information & Broadcasting Ministry data flawed? For the last eight months Ministry has been working on a figure of 123.16 lakh cable TV households in the four metros. These figures must have been based on some government data. How suddenly in September there is a reduction of 54.76 lakh in cable TV households is very difficult to digest. Manipulation of this data and changing the baseline of households as per Census 2011 at the last moment when only 40 days are left for the deadline to arrive gives rise to many questions. Why a ministry has to resort to such tactics to show a better achievement? What is the hurry to enforce a law which has so many flaws and many issues have not been resolved. Why the ministry wants to give the impression that all is well when according to international experience countries like USA and UK have taken more than ten years to digitalise only the terrestrial TV? Direct to home connections have been digital since 2004, their inclusion in the digital cable penetration is not justified. Digitalisation of cable is a process for which law was enacted in the year 2011.