In line with IBF Board of Directors’ concurrence, a genre-wise analogue signal switch-off schedule has been formalised for the four metros ahead of the November 1, 2012 deadline. This would entail a specific genre of channels not being available for a specific time period on a particular day.
This development comes amid digital set top box seeding and consumer pull for the same not scaling proportionately.
During the various discussions held between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the broadcasters and MSOs regarding the implementation of Digital Addressable Systems (DAS), the stakeholders had a unanimous view that shifting of channels from analogue signal to digital environment cannot be done overnight. The Ministry is keen that broadcasters switch off the analogue IRDs of different genres in a gradual manner. This would eventually help augment the process of digitisation.
Commenting on the effectiveness of this particular initiative, Anil Malhotra, COO, Siti Cable Network said, “The genre-wise switching off of channels from analogue will help the pace of digital set top box seeding. This initiative will make subscribers aware that channels are going off and will give them time to decide on taking set top boxes.”
Network operators (MSOs and independent operators) in the four metros are issuing letters to broadcasters, giving them the schedule for switching off specific genres. English movie channels is the first genre of channels expected to be switched off on October 10, from 11PM onwards, followed by Hindi general entertainment channels for a time period of two hours from 2PM to 4PM. Hindi movie channels, English and Hindi business news channels and again Hindi GECs have been slotted for October 15, October 18 and October 22, respectively, from 11PM onwards.
Jagjit Singh Kohli, Managing Director and CEO, DigiCable elaborated that the main objective behind this initiative is to increase the penetration of STBs in the metros and that they will start this exercise only in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
Sharing more on the impact on the consumer after this procedure, he said, “We are not expecting much reaction from the consumers from tomorrow (October 10) as we are only switching off English movie channels, but I think after October 15 and October 22, it will affect a lot because we are switching of Hindi movie and Hindi GECs on these respective dates.”
Meanwhile, West Delhi Cable Operators Association has written to I&B Ministry requesting it to not switch off the analogue signals as it will be difficult for them to collect the monthly subscription from consumers. They said that customers will not pay if they don’t receive all the channels that they have been watching till now.
The Association also requested the government to generate awareness about the partial analogue switch-off through advertisements in newspapers and television.
It may be recalled that in September 2012, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had stopped MSOs from switching off analogue channels in a bid to force consumers to buy set top boxes. TDSAT had given the order on a petition of ESPN Software India against switching off its signals by DEN, Hathway, WWIL and INCable. ESPN had requested the court to implead TRAI as a party to investigate and report whether the three ESPN channels had been de-activated/ blocked by the MSOs on their analogue network.