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Supriya Sahu

Joint Secretary | 22 Mar 2013

Ministry of MIB has taken several path-breaking digital initiatives. YouTube channel of MIB Ministry is a big hit; we have more than one lakh likes. Also, every meeting that takes place on digitisation or any other important issue is put on the website of the ministry. We also have a regular blog. Ministry has appointed special set of officers from the Indian information service who have been specially drafted by the ministry to work on social media and they are doing extremely well

Supriya Sahu, a 1991 Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer, is Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB). Prior to this, she was Director – Broadcasting in MIB.

Sahu has earlier been the District Collector of Nilgiris District, where she was the force behind the ‘Say no to plastics’ campaign to protect the eco-system of the hill station Ooty. Before that, she was Additional Collector of Vellore District and Project Director, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS).

Talking to exchang4media’s Abid Hasan, Sahu speaks about the current digitsation scenario and the wide discrepancies between the Government’s and cable operator’s figures. She also throws light on gender sensitisation and monetisation of content on television.

Q. There is a wide discrepancy between the Government figure of digitisation completed in Phase II (55%) and what the cable operators are claiming (20-30%). What is the reason for this discrepancy? What, according to you, are the ground realities?

Our figures are census and data-based. We have calculated these figures with proof; please ask the cable operators how they are calculating their figures.

There are 16 million subscribers in these 38 cities; we have arrived at this number from the census figure. We asked census for the total number of TVs available in these 38 cities. We got a certain figure and we added 20 per cent more to it, thinking there must be some TV sets that might have been left out.

Another thing is that cable operators may go wrong if they are including district data. Let us understand that Phase II is for those cities that have a population of more than one million. Many people confuse it with the district. We have arrived at the data from DTH players and six national MSOs and they can’t give us wrong information as there is tax implication.

Q. Eight million boxes, two weeks left, shortage of man power and set top boxes – is it practically possible? How close to reality is completion of Phase II?

Up to March 8, cable operators had installed 52.83 lakh boxes and DTH STBs were 41.39, totaling 94.22 lakh boxes installed. In terms of percentage, it comes to about 60 per cent. Therefore, the ministry is confident.

Who is saying we are not meeting the deadline? Only few MSOs are saying this but it is their duty to install boxes. MSOs have shared data with us that says that they have three million STBs in stock and two millions orders have been placed. The ordered boxes have started delivering from last week of February. Hence, we don’t see any problem at all at this point of time and are sure of meeting the deadline.

Q. Interconnect agreement is still an issue with the broadcasters and cable operators. What is the current scenario?

It’s an issue; many MSOs have brought to our notice that the interconnect agreements have not been signed yet with the aggregator and there is a delay. We have also spoken to broadcasters on this issue. Our task forces have already raised this with broadcasters urging them to enter into an agreement with MSOs immediately. We have been given to understand by the broadcasters that they have already told aggregators, which are the agencies that work on their behalf, to sign the agreement to move forward. In any case, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been holding regular consultations with the stakeholders to ensure that it will happen.

Q. Even as the world is getting on to digital media, the Government is still not as active on the platform. What steps do you recommend for the Government to engage more on digital and social media?

Ministry of MIB has taken several path-breaking digital initiatives. YouTube channel of MIB Ministry is a big hit; we have more than one lakh likes. Also, every meeting that takes place on digitisation or any other important issue is put on the website of the ministry. We also have a regular blog. Ministry has appointed special set of officers from the Indian information service who have been specially drafted by the ministry to work on social media and they are doing extremely well.

Q. Recently, we saw Google Hang Out with the Finance Minister and in coming days Planning Commission will also discuss its five-year plans with the public. When can we expect the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to hang out online with broadcasters and MSOs?

At this point of time we haven’t thought on these lines. But suggestions like these are always welcome. We have a call center in the ministry for Phase II and everyday more than 250 calls are answered, with a register being maintained. In order to create awareness, we are communicating with our people continuously through TV, print and radio advertisements.

Q. The growing spate of crime against women has raised stern fingers at the vulgar content that is showcased in films and on television? How can MIB be more actively involved in regulating such content? What can be done to bring about more gender sensitisation?

We have in recent times taken action again some channels for showing indecent portrayal of women or for showing vulgar content that is not suitable for children. We are monitoring it very closely and have also taken a certain channel off air for showing content which was not appropriate for many age groups. There is a inter committee which looks at such violations and reports to us. This committee has representatives from various ministries.

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