I&B Ministry might be rejoicing over its success in achieving 87% of STB penetration in Phase-II of Mandatory Digitisation that ended on 31st March 2013, consumers and LCOs are still struggling to come to terms with what is happening on the ground. Many local cable operator associations have been protesting with cable blackouts and hunger strikes but all this is falling on deaf ears of the government. Their main grouse is that till now they were independent businessmen making a living out of last mile cable network but now Government has given the control of their business to MSOs including their revenues.
Many Court cases have been filed by LCOs as well as consumers against the digitisation procedures and some of them are already dismissed. IBF has approached the Supreme Court to get all the cases from state High Courts to shift to Supreme Court for a single decision for all.
After TRAI's warning to MSOs and cable operators, they are trying to fill up the customer choice forms but consumers are not ready to do that on the type of packages, a-la-carte choices and prices being offered to them. Subscribers are also protesting against poor quality of STBs which are going faulty very often.
TRAI has not given up implementing 12 mnt cap on ad duration for TV channels. It has asked broadcaster to start providing a fortnightly report on commercials and advertisements carried on the TV channels along with their duration. Broadcasters want this to be held up till digitalization is completed and they start getting the full benefits of the digital environment.
A consultation Paper by TRAI on cross media ownership has received many comments, particularly large corporates with stakes in content as well as distribution are very much disturbed if restrictions are placed on cross media holdings.
TRAI has also issued tariff orders to supply STBs to DAS as well as DTH consumers. It has suggested some basic packages for hire purchase as well as rent schemes. It is a bit too late for this as 25 million STBs are already seeded by the MSOs in the two phases of digitalisation taking activation fee which TRAI's tariff order has not permitted.
While digitisation is going on in its own pace, it is time for all cable operators and MSOs to plan ahead in monetising these digital networks. World over, cable networks are going all IP and introducing distribution on multiple platforms using OTT and adding value added services like video-on-demand, catch-up TV etc. But for that we need to rebuild our networks. This special issue on Digital Cable has plenty of information on the subject from experts of the industry all across the world. We have made a special effort for our readers in giving them the latest information on these upgrades. I am sure you will relish reading these technical articles written in simple English so that every one can understand them.
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—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma