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.
Now second phase has been announced in the next 38 cities and a similar procedure is meant to be followed here too starting with genre wise switch off of analog channels from January onwards. It may be more difficult in this Phase as unlike the first Phase where the big MSOs were already operating digital headends, there are many smaller independent MSOs, involved and percentage of economically weaker section in these cities is much more than in the four Metros.
Manish Tewari, the new I&B minister has already started giving many statements that may appear correct politically but I have all my doubts of their implementation in true letter and spirit. These include restrictions on cross media holdings to curb monopolies, self regulation for content providers and level playing field for media. For years these issues have been rampantly misused with connivance of the Ministry. How will he reverse the damages already done is a million dollar question.
TRAI had an open house discussion on advertisement duration in TV channels in Delhi last month where TV channels came under the attack from cable operators and consumer bodies for extending the advertisement duration much more than the 12 min/hr authorised. Now it has to be seen how TRAI intends to use this feed back to regulate the TV channels in true spirit or bowdown to their pressure and leave them on their own.
As recommended by Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, Cable operators may be punished heavily for running unauthorised channels in their networks henceforth. However, the Committee has not hesitated in expressing its displeasure on Ministry’s bias against cable operators and soft corner for broadcasters, DTH & IPTV operators.
Meanwhile operators in Kerala are at loggerheads with MediaPro, the distribution giant for distributing channels of Star & Zee-Turner including Asianet. All MediaPro channels are switched off in Kerala and blame game is going on.
This is the end of the year and festival season too. We hope, inspite of the continuing pains of digitalisation, industry can manage to enjoy the festivities and prosper in the coming year.
We wish a very happy New Year to all our readers.
Be prepared for the season of professional events starting January with Convergence 2013 and BES Expo 2013 in Delhi.
—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma