Next phases of digitization of the whole nation by 2014 seems to be under hold as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Sh. Manish Tewari has asked his Ministry to conduct an external audit of the process as it has unfold in Phase-I and Phase-II . Although he hasmentioned that Phase III should not be put on hold, there appears to be a slowdown in the Ministry in implementing the same. Take for example there is no new MSO registered for Phase III & IV after the list of 140 registered MSOs update till 28 April 2013 there is no additions. It is believed that many applications are lying in the Ministry, some waiting for Home Ministry clearance and some are held up due to some reason or the other. MSOs who have applied for licenses say that their applications are being held held up at the behest of some National MSOs and DTH companies who are trying to monopolise the Phase III & IV market too, like they did in Phase I and II.
Lok Sabha Standing Committee on IT to Review DAS implementation
Lok Sabha Standing Committee for IT headed by Rao Inderjeet Singh, MP is also in the process to review digitisation done so far and work out the modalties for Phase-III and Phase-IV. The committee held its first review meeting in Mumbai on 22nd October where it spoke to stakeholders like Cable Operators, Independent MSO, broadcasters, MSOs and DTH players to debrief them on the process so far. It is believed that Ministry officials present there tried to make this a closed door event where only a few large MSOs and their supporting JV partners and LCOs were present to give their views to the committee so that only a rosy picture of the process is provided hiding all the problems faced by Consumers and LCOs. However, Cable Operators approached the I&B Minister, Manish Tewari and finally managed attend the meeting and were able to give their feed-back to the committee explaining the shortfalls in the present system where transparency in providing content to consumers and giving them their choice content is yet to be realized. High cost of digital cable service is also becoming a barrier in providing affordable digital entertainment to the poor masses and it may impact the implementation in Phase-3 and 4.
Cable Operators Meet Political Leaders
On 17th October, Cable Operators of Gujarat along with Cable Operators Federation of India met Senior Congress Leader Shri Ahmed Patel, Political Secy to Congress President and leader, Smt. Sonia Gandhi and apprised him of their plight. A memorandum was also handed over to him listing out various drawbacks in the policy and how they adversely impacted the business of Small Cable Operators who have been earning their livelihood for the last 25 years providing cable services to consumers in every part of the country. Mr Patel assured Cable Operators of Government support and asked Cable Operators to also meet I&B Minister Sh Manish Tewari and explain their problems to him.
I&B Minister, Manish Tewari assures Cable Operators
Operators’ Delegation also met Shri Tewari in the evening on 17th October and gave him a memorandum on the adverse impact of Mandatory Digitalization and unfair policies. Memorandum was handed over by Sh. Pramod Pandya, president, Cable Operators Association of Gujarat. He was accompanied by many other LCOs from Ahmedabad and Saurashtra Region of Gujarat including Dilip Singh, Bharat Patel, Jeetendra,Kamlesh Bhai and Piyush Bhai Mehta. Shri Kanwarji Bavaliya, MP from Saurashtra(Gujarat) who understood the problems of Cable Operators came along with these Operators to help them meet senior leaders in the Government so as to apprise them with the ground reality. Sh. Tewari asked Operators to meet him after a week to discuss their problems in detail after he had gone through their memorandum and find a solution.
Delegation of Cable Operators Associations from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana also met I&B Minister, Manish Tewari on 30th October to re-emphasise their problems. Mr Tiwari was very assuring and when confronted by complaint of Cable Operators that the law drafted by the Ministry and TRAI regulations have put their business in jeopardy, he remarked that infact, he desired that atleast 5000 independent MSOs should get DAS licence so that there is enough competition in the market.
Gujarat Cable Operators have also appealed in the Ahmedabad High Court against DAS regulations that have endangered their fundamental right to earn livelihood. Cable Operators from Nashik, Maharashtra have also gone to High Court against the DAS Regulations and heavy Taxation.
Howrah in West Bengal, which is among those regions that are under phase II of DAS, has seen the implementation of DAS in only around 40 per cent of the million or so cable TV connections in the district. The remaining 60 per cent continues to be stuck watching analogue cable TV services. Like in many cities of Phase II subscribers have not shown interest in buying a set top box (STB) for digital cable. Local cable operators are also confused if only the Howrah city falls under DAS or the whole of District is affected.
HITS may start beaming soon
JAINHITS, the only Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) platform in the country, can now provide the consumer with more than 250 channels including the prominent TV channels of Media Pro, MSMD (SONY), SUN and ESPN after TDSAT directed 50 plus TV channels to provide signals to JAINHITS on 01 November 2013 by the end of the day.
Channels include bouquets of SUN TV, ESPN and MSM Discovery. Earlier on 12 September 2013, TDSAT’s had passed a judgment directing Star and Zee Turner aggregator Media Pro to provide signals to JAINHITS.
JAINHITS had approached the authorized content aggregator for these channels owned by SONY, SUN and ESPN, however, they continued to defer the process for nearly an year on various grounds.
The bench of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Aftab Alam and Hon’ble Mr.Kuldip Singh was not impressed by the fact that all operators had created fresh Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) for HITS which is yet to get approval of TRAI. The Bench also asked Counsel of Respondents whether this amounts to breach of violation of Section 3.2 of DAS regulation of cable interconnect agreement.
Ms Ambika Soni, ex I&B Minister had stated in the Parliament while discussing the DAS Bill in 2011 that HITS technology would facilitate small operators in rural and semi-urban areas to adopt digital technology without incurring heavy expense. It is only now that we may hope to see HITS in place.