Phase I&II of digitisation were hurriedly executed by the Ministry to keep up with its own set deadlines. However, the results have not been very encouraging. Subscriber choice forms are still not fed into the SMS systems of MSOs and itemised bills are not being provided. TRAI's ultimatum to MSOs for this process to be completed was 15 November which was extended to 29 November and on 29 November it has further been extended to 15 December. Broadcasters have been asked to switch off their channels where MSOs are not providing gross bills and MSOs have been asked to switch off signals to consumers who have not submitted their CAFs. Only 40% subscribers have submitted their forms in the Phase II cities making both the government and the regulator worried.
I&B ministry has been asked to do audit of phase I&II through a third party. Standing Committee of Parliament on IT is also carrying out its own verification of the progress made in the last two years of implementing digitisation in Cable TV. Cable Operators are approaching the committee telling it the true situation on the ground which neither TRAI nor the Government is ready to listen. In fact success of DAS implementation depends mainly on the attitudes of the LCOs who own the last mile and not so much on the efforts of the MSOs and Broadcasters. Ministry’s perception that with their money power and media power MSOs can revolutionise the cable TV industry implementing digital processes is completely wrong.
TDSAT is now hearing the arguments in the case filed by NBA and other broadcasters against TRAI for its Quality of Service Regulations of putting a 12 minutes ad cap on TV advertisements each hour. NBA has called this regulation unconstitutional and beyond TRAI's jurisdiction. I wonder if they have forgotten that it is a law that TRAI is trying to implement and one has to go back to Parliament to make any amendments. TRAI had issued consultation on review of terms of renewal of DTH license. Even before making its recommendations it issued another one on revising the terms of licensing DTH operations. Major issues dealt in this consultation are cross media holdings, interoperability of DTH STBs and Licence fee. I feel there must be a DTH Act to regulate the DTH operations as this segment of the industry has made progress only by violating all guidelines which are often challenged in the courts.
TRAI has also given its recommendations on Monopoly/ Market dominance in Cable TV services. These recommendations do not auger well for small operators or independent MSOs as the relevant market chosen to measure monopoly of an MSO is a ‘State’, meaning that citywide monopolies of large MSOs will continue. Even the existing statewide monopolies are allowed to continue putting a ban only on future expansion with mergers and acquisitions.
End of the year is coming and we are releasing a separate ‘ Industry Year Book and Directory’ in January 2014. Please hurry up to be listed in the directory as this is the only authentic directory from experts in the business. Also there is an ‘Year Planner 2014’ with this edition, so hurry up and book your subscriptions now.
We wish a very happy Xmas and prosperous new year to all our readers.
—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma