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60% digitisation achieved in Phase II: Uday Kumar Varma

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60% digitisation achieved in Phase II: Uday Kumar Varma

Digitisation was a dominant topic of discussion at FICCI Frames 2013, held in Mumbai from March 12-14, with policy makers, industry leaders and experts deliberating on various aspects of the process.

Addressing the Valedictory Session, Secretary, Information & Broadcasting, Uday Kumar Varma expressed optimism over meeting the March 31, 2013 deadline of digitisation in 38 cities across the country. He informed that as per the review taken in the Ministry last week, approximately 60 per cent digitisation has taken place, with some cities like Ahmedabad, Amritsar and Ludhiana reporting near complete switchover. He expressed confidence that the remaining 40 per cent would be completed by March 31, saying “compliance tends to get better when the deadline approaches”.

It has been estimated that 1.60 crore set top boxes (STBs) will be required of which nearly one crore STBs have already been installed. Varma further said that MSOs from most cities, except a few cities like Ranchi, Srinagar etc., have reported satisfactory progress.

Addressing the delegates via video-link from New Delhi, Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Manish Tewari said that digitisation is a major project that will ensure transparency and bring benefits to all in the long run. He added that while the digitisation process has been set in motion following a legal remit, “there is also a social contract which calls upon all stakeholders in this, whether they are broadcasters, MSOs or cable operators, to sort out the issues inter-se, because eventually, it needs to be a win-win situation for the broadcasters and the consumers.” He further said, “If any section within this large family feels short changed, then obviously there’s a cause of concern.”

The Minister further stated that the higher import duty levied on set top boxes in the Union Budget will not set back the digitisation process, but instead will give an opportunity for the domestic STB manufacturers to benefit. “It is important that when such a huge exercise is undertaken, which involves a revenue of about $4 billion to $5 billion, essentially paid by the people of India and the MSOs, there should be certain tangible benefits which must accrue to Indian manufacturers,” he added.

Tewari reiterated the firm backing of the Government for the growth of the media and entertainment industry and said, “This industry is not only a huge economic multiplier, but it also has the potential of absorbing creative intellect of young people. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Government to put in place appropriate mechanisms which try and play the role of facilitator and enabler.”

As is known, the I&B Ministry has set up a task force to monitor the progress of digitisation process of Phase II. Another committee is spearheading the awareness campaign, executed through a plethora of televisions spots, radio jingles and scrolls.

India is currently implementing the largest digitisation drive in the world. In the first phase, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai were covered. Phase II covers 38 cities with million-plus population. Remaining cities are to be digitised by September 30, 2014 and the rest of India by December 31, 2014. 

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