In a very silent way Modi government has extended the deadlines for mandatory digitization Phase III and Phase IV to end of 2015 and 2016 respectively. I feel this is a very good move keeping in mind that the feedback received by the Ministry for Phase I and II was not very encouraging. Indigenous manufacture of STB is the biggest worry of the Ministry. Consumer end problems like rate increase, lack of choice of content, poor quality STBs, no itemized billing is the second major problem. Cable Operators are a happy lot as this is a big relief for them but Broadcasters are very unhappy.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Cable Day Celebrations in Bengaluru, Gulbarga, Hassan, Karnataka
In Assam there are more than 40,000 individuals involved either directly or indirectly involved in Cable TV Industry. Since Assam is already considered to be an industrially backward region, the scope of employment for educated unemployed youths is also very negligible. The political, economical situation of this region has resulted in the unemployment of large numbers of educated youths. But the Cable TV Industry has been able to create self employment for thousands of educated unemployed youths in the last decades although without any government patronage.
Phase I and II covered 42 cities including four metros with total C&S homes at 32 million. It is estimated that around 22 million have been deployed till June 2014. It is believed that this number includes non-addressable digital STBs too which act only as D2A converters for viewers. In other words there is still a gap of more than 10 million STBs yet to be deployed. Besides, this number increases if we take additional TVs in the home-based subscribers. However, the following two problems need to be addressed for Phase I and II Digital Addressable System i.e. DAS.
1.Cable TV networking started some time in 1985 with transmission of video tape replays aggregated with S Band satellite casted two Door Darshan channels. Later with STAR TV launching programs, followed by ZEE News and Movies the number of channels rose to 12.The service was NOT considered legal till promulgation of Cable TV Networks Regulation Ordinance 1994, which later became an Act in 1995.
Cable Operators of Tamil Nadu state are squeezed between DAS and ARASU. In spite of Chennai being in the first phase of Mandatory Digitisation, the state run MSO still does not have a DAS Registration to operate a digital headend as per the government mandate. LCOs were already fedup with the monopoly of Sun TV owned Sumangali Cable Vision earlier and thought state run MSO ARASU will prove a life line for them. Instead, it has become a bone of contention as State government has not only forced operators to get connected to it but also demanded operators to charge only a measly sum of Rs 70 as monthly subscription out of which they also must give Rs 20 to the state government. Operators lament that this is hardly any revenue to operate a digital service cable operation complying with the Central government mandate that allows ‘pay’ channels to harge the any amount they wish.
DAS has hardly succeeded in Phase 1 and 2 cities when TRAI is thinking of imposing fines for MSOs and LCOs for not complying with its regulations. It has issued a Consultation Paper on 28 August 2014 to amend the Standards of Quality of Service (digital addressable cable TV systems) Regulations.
RIO rates offered to the MSOs by the 'Pay' Broadcasters under DAS for redistribution of the Pay TV content to the various LMO/ LCOs that are further offered to the consumers by their respective last mile service providers are against the mandate of digitisation increasing the subscriptions exorbitantly. In case the last mile service provider in the value chain, starts to charge a mere 30 % distribution and servicing cost from the consumers towards the cost / expense incurred on operations and collection of subscription dues, there will be a substantial increase in sub scription charges payable by the consumers, whereby if you calculate the price as per the RIO offered by the pay TV broadcasters for about 30 -40 channels in SD “Standard Definition” format including popular entertainment, sports and news channels that are actually being watched and subscribed now, add up the cost of servicing, collections, the Basic service tier, the applicable Service Tax and Entertainment tax, it will amount to not less than Rs. 300 to 350. This will be more than twice what the same customer is paying today, in stark contrast to what you had asked them in the form of ‘Trade off’ of Digitisation by reducing the cost to consumers.
Greater Guwahati Cable TV Operators Association (GGCOA) delegation lead by its President, Mohd. Iquebal Ahmed met state Chief Minister Sh Tarun Gogoi and discussed various measures the State Government can take to ensure smooth implementation of mandatory digitization as envisaged in Cable TV Networks (Regulations) Act Amendment of 2011. They told the CM that hundreds of self employed youths are involved in this profession, which started with 2 channels in early 90s, being brought under the purview of Cable TV Act way back in 1995, recognized as Small Scale Industry by the Government of India in 1994 itself.