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.
A delegation of TAMILNADU CABLE TV SERVICE PROVIDERS ASSOCIATION (TCSPA) lead by its president SPK. Goguldoss met the I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar on 21 August 2014, in his office in Delhi and submitted a memorandum expressing their woes in the presence of state run MSO, ARASU that does not have a DAS registration yet. Delegation comprised of Mr S K Bhaskar, secretary of the Association. President of COFI, Mrs. Roop Sharma also accompanied them
The memorandum states that Cable TV operators have invested their hard-earned money on building and upgrading their Cable Networks through which all the digital facilities would reach the end-user, making the on ground activity for giving the best signal and uninterrupted service to their customers and also they collect and pay the taxes to the government. But as per the regulation of the TRAI, the Tariff Order No. 3 of 2012 (30th April 2012) and the Quality of Service Regulation no. 12 of 2012 (14th May 2012) and the Interconnect Regulation (9 of 2012) (30th April 2012), they have been betrayed of their hopes and life and welfare of the LCOs has been totally ignored. All the Acts and the regulations of TRAI are enacted to protect the interest and monopolies of The Broadcaster’s and National level MSOs, and neglect the interest of the last mile Cable TV operators (LMO) who are the connecting thread between the end-user and the Broadcasters & the MSOs.
The revenue share has been drastically reduced to 45% of Rs. 100 of BST which makes their business unviable. Early in 2009 itself the regulator had fixed Rs. 82/- (Excluding-Taxes) for 30 FTA channels after a detailed survey of the industry and the entire revenue of Rs. 82/- (Excluding-Taxes) was given to LCO for the important role he plays.
But ironically after 5 years, in the midst of high inflation and huge investment for network upgradation, operators are now dictated to receive a very low share. They explain that Cable TV operators, are self-employed, self-financed businesses, without any government assistance and have built the entire Cable Web with their hardwork. They are earning their livelihood for more than 23 years from this business from which they are being driven out totally, which cannot be justified. In the memorandum operators have requested to relook and amend the existing rules and regulations to keeping in mind the welfare of LCOs and to protect their legitimate fundamental right to live, to do business. They have further requested a minimum share of Rs 100 of the BST package for themselves. They have also asked the government to exempt them of service tax and entertainment tax so as to function effectively.
Operators also explained to the Minister the typical problems faced by the operators in Tamil Nadu state.
Problems faced in Tamil Nadu:
1. The DAS Act enacted in 2012 has not been fully be implemented because of the ongoing problems between the Centre and State governments.
2. The infrastructure of Cable TV operators (the ground networks) have not been protected through a state legislation giving them a Right of Way.
3. The DAS licensed digital MSOs are not being allowed by the state government to do business freely.
4.Protect the interest of the end-users the general public who have been denied of the opportunity to avail the modern technologies like Internet, VOD & Value added services through cable that cannot be provided with a small subscription amount of Rs. 50 per subscriber per month.
5. Ensure freedom of press, freedom of expression and avoid the monopoly in Broadcasting which is dangerous for the National Integrity and Unity.
Causes of above problems in the State:
The entire Tamilnadu is being takenover and controlled in Broadcasting sector by a single entity ‘The Tamilnadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation LTD’ owned by the State government. Earlier the DMK government was controlling the Cable TV Industry through the SUN-NETWORK and now it has gone to the hands of AIADMK.
Arasu Cable TV has no valid CAS licence which has expired in March 2012 and no DAS licence too. But still analogue signal is running in Chennai which is a DAS notified area of Phase 1. ARASU is also spoiling the cable business of the DAS licensed MSOs by telecasting the analogue signal even after the DAS Act has come in force from 2012.
Under the Digital Act (able T Act Amendment of 2011) the RoW (Right of Way) is very important to safeguard the business of cable operators and MSOs. In Tail Nadu this has not been enforced by the State Government and instead the State government has abnormally increased the cable laying charges from Rs. 9400/- to Rs. 34000/- per K.M which nobody can pay and do a viable business.
Operators have requested the Union government to fix the unified charges per K.M. under ROW and communicate to all the State governments immediately to support the effective DAS implementation without any hurdle.
According to the operators, all these are happening due to the stay against the implementation of DAS granted by the High Court of Chennai which ought not to be given, as happened in the High Court of other states. Neither MIB nor TRAI is able to get the stay vacated it so far.
“The dream of Digital India, Bank A/c to every family, Broadband to every village which are the motto of the government led by Honourable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi will not come true without putting an end to the atrocities of ARASU Cable in Tamilnadu”, states the memorandum.
As the regulator TRAI has given its recommendations thrice, upholding the barring of State entities entering into the Broadcasting Sector, it is now MIB that must implement it immediately and set right the industry which is in chaos.
Operators have requested the I&B Minister to take a final decision on this issue to protect the interest of other DAS licensed MSOs, the Cable TV operators and the end-user general public who have been denied the fruits of Digitalisation for the last 2 years in Tamil Nadu.