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.
In their memorandum, they explained that with advent of time, technology, manipulation & highhandedness by Broadcasters of Pay Channels, the small operators were compelled to shut down their control rooms & take signals or service from other control room now termed as MSO in industry.
The boom in the TV market resulted in the increase of quantity of pay channels, but the analogue transmission technology lacked addressability. This situation compelled the operators to demand addressability to distribute pay channels using Conditional Access System (CAS).
The Cable TV Act was again amended in 2004 to bring the industry under a Regulatory Authority- Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). CAS was advocated by TRAI, but due to manipulation of the broadcasters and political problems it was deferred. The Broadcasters instead came out with their own distribution platform using superior technology- DTH which is CAS enabled.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt of India along with TRAI has dealt with various aspects of the Cable TV industry during this period, but the rights & privileges of the LMO/LCO are still not properly addressed. Regarding this issue, several representations, appeals have been submitted already to MIB & TRAI by National operator organizations.
TRAI has made several recommendations & regulations dealing with monopoly created by few powerful broadcasters through their backed MSO who are swallowing the business of small independent MSO or LMO/LCO. This has resulted in the creation of vertical monopoly in the market by consolidation of negotiation power with a particular group. The proper policy to streamline the survival of the LMO/LCO or other small independent MSO shall help in curbing the monopoly in the market.
TRAI has passed several regulations dealing with activities of the Pay Broadcasters, MSO, LMO/LCO which has to be monitored in State or District level through Deputy Commissioners, Commissioner of police or SDM, as they have been appointed Nodal Officers by Central Government as mentioned in Cable TV Act. And now since Cable TV is entering into a new phase, Digital Addressable System (DAS), the State Government has to play a serious role for the sake of thousands of unemployed youths engaged as LMO/LCO & basically protection of consumer rights. The operational MSO s in Assam has already started implanting Set Top Box to the consumer of Cable TV. After start of DAS, packages will be formed of channels. TRAI has regulations in the matters, but does not have effective mechanism to monitor the implementation.
In order to safeguard & protect the interest of the small operators along with proper implementation of provisions of the Cable TV Act & TRAI Act for the protection of consumer rights, operators have suggested the following measures & initiatives from the state government.
Suggested Measures to be taken by State Governments
1.To take up with MIB & TRAI for extension of DAS until pending court cases on the matter are disposed off.
2.To take up with Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI) & Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), Government of India for taking up schemes for educating, creating awareness of responsibilities of stake holders at State Level, prepare special policy in rates of Pay Channels & various tax for North East taking into consideration the political, industrial & economic scenario of this region.
3.To take measures for curbing irregularities & malpractices by various stake holders, especially Broadcasters by empowering the proposed State Level Monitoring Committee.
4.To initiate steps to provide infrastructure, like access to Fiber Cable Network of ASWAN, subsidized electricity, permission of laying underground cable in soft terms, easy finance facility from Government or Semi Government organizations to the registered local operators. To safeguard, protect the interest of the indigenous educated unemployed youth engaged as cable tv operators from exploitation by multinational or corporate players. 5.To take up with Broadcasters of National level Pay Channels for providing subsidized rates of their packages for North Eastern States.
6. To constitute a state level Task Force for DAS implementation.
FORMATIONS OF TASK FORCE AT STATE LEVEL TO IMPLEMENT & MONITOR THE PROVISIONS OF CABLE TV ACT & TRAI.
DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES:
a)To formulate policies, take measures to implement the provisions of CABLE TV ACT & TRAI ACT at State Level.
b)To constitute various cells at both State & District Level with notified officers of State Govt, representatives from pay broadcasters, MSO, LMO/LCO for registering complaints & grievances of consumers & operators.
c)To co ordinate, correspond, liaison with TRAI, MIB about recent laws, rules.
d)To liaison, correspond with Broadcasters, Cable TV Operators- MSO, LMO/LCO & instruct them accordingly for compliance & monitor their activities.
e)To initiate action against any violation by any stake holder as per law.
f)To maintain a full fledged office for the purpose of operation of day to day activities.
g)To register, receive complaints from all stake holders through District Nodal officers or Pay Broadcasters, State Bodies of stake holders directly.
h)To take up with various Govt departments the issues related for providing support to local operators & smooth functioning of Cable TV Networks.
i)To explore & suggest measures for earning of revenue to state exchequer.
j)To suggest measures for making the Cable TV Networks more useful for general public with addition of value added service like Broadband.
k)To collect list of existing operators district wise through district level nodal officers.
l)To check the package rates, Set Top Box schemes of MSO.
m)To check the quality of service provided in DAS period by direct reporting of MSO regarding customer care centers, helpline numbers, repair & maintenance facility of STB. n) To gear up the District level bodies for ensuring compliance of the provisions of each & every provisions of the Cable TV & TRAI ACT.
o) To suggest, take steps to protect rights of consumer in Digital phase about regulations, recommendations, directions & notifications of TRAI, if required by formation of laws in state level.
p) To look into the problems faced by the local operators & initiate necessary steps for overcoming them by taking up with related Government or semi- government department.
q)To supervise the payment of taxes by Channels, MSO/LMO/LCO & take steps for recovery of revenue to state exchequer.
r)To notify, issue advertisements through newspapers or TV about the rights of consumers, duties & obligations of MSO, LMO/LCO.
s)To take up with police department for prevention of violation by stake holders.
COMPOSITION OF TASK FORCE
a) STATE GOVT NOMINATED IAS LEVEL OFFICER
b)STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT NOMINATED IGP LEVEL OFFICER.
c) REPRESENTATIVES OF MAJOR PAY BROADCASTERS.
d)REPRESENTATIVES OF MSO, LMO/LCO.
Last but not the least, the State Government should depute specialized individuals to suggest measures to prevent the concentration of huge financial resources generated from Cable TV Industry by illegal means & ways in hands of certain individuals. The Government should involve in the field by creating a special department for involving in the industry to secure the livelihood of thousands of individuals involved in the industry & above all protect the interest of the consumers.