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Doubts cast over Chennai's digitisation drive

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Doubts cast over Chennai's digitisation drive

With roughly 20 days remaining for the cable TV digitisation deadline of November 1, 2012, exchange4media takes stock of the preparations and ground realities in the four metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. While in the case of Delhi, there is a difference between the figures that the Government is quoting and what the LCOs say is the actual figure, in Kolkata, the situation is not much different. In fact, some MSOs and LCOs have gone so far as to express the apprehension of a law and order situation in the City of Joy when screens go blank on November 1. In comparison, the digitisation scenario in Chennai is totally different and far worse.

In a recent report, the Government has claimed that 77 per cent of the set top boxes (STBs) have been seeded on an average in the four metros and that work to install the remaining STBs is in rapid progress. If DTH is also taken into consideration, then the penetration will reach 84 per cent.

According to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), 59 per cent of installation of STBs has been done in Chennai till the last week of September. As per the Census 2011 report, the total number of cable TV households in Chennai stands at 11.07 lakh, of which STBs have been installed in 2.56 lakh households, excluding the households with DTH. As per data provided by six DTH operators, the total number of DTH subscribers in Chennai stands at 6.92 lakh as on October 9, 2012.

Calling the Government figures totally incorrect, MR Srinivasan, General Secretary, Chennai Metro Cable TV Operators Association (CMCOA) insisted, “Only 15-20 per cent of set top boxes (STB) have been installed till date. Chennai needs roughly 35 million STBs and there are 6.92 lakh DTH connections and only two lakh homes with digital set top boxes, rest of the households are still running on analogue feeds.”

When asked about the main reason behind such low penetration, Srinivasan replied, “This is not the correct time to introduce digitisation. We have also written a letter to the I&B Ministry stating that the figure that the government is claiming is incorrect. The main reason is that MSOs are not installing the STBs because they are confused as there has been buzz that the Tamil Nadu Government will enter the cable television business. Hence, nobody wants to invest.”

The cable operators’ body has also requested the Ministry not to plug off all the channels from November 1 but switch off analogue signals in a phased manner since digital penetration is very low.

‘Situation is the same as on July 1’
It may be noted that the cable industry in Chennai mostly runs under the Government banner.

According to SPK Goguldoss, President, Tamil Nadu Cable TV Service Providers Association, “The situation is still the same as it was on July 1. There has been no change at all and the main reason behind this is the unwillingness of MSOs to install the STBs.”

The Association has also written a letter to the I&B Ministry and also met I&B Minister Ambika Soni last month and urged her to take some action fast since the digitisation situation in Chennai is bad. They have also requested for speedy disposal of pending issues, monopoly of the cable industry, encouragement of independent MSOs by the I&B Ministry.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation has planned something different to gain more customers for digitisation. On conditions of anonymity, one of the representatives of Arasu Cable said, “We are approaching digitisation in a different manner. In our last board meeting, we decided to help LCOs to get loans from banks as it will allow them to buy large numbers of STBs.”

It may be noted that Arasu Cable is providing STBs at a cost of Rs 1,500.

Also read:

Delhi digitisation: Govt says on track, LCOs disagree

Kolkata digitisation: Tussle between Govt & LCO figures

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