In the first task force meeting of Digital Addressable System (DAS) with the leading cable operators, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar stressed upon the importance of consumer choice in the digitisation process and called for indigenous set top box manufacturing.
The meeting was held today in Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi with I&B Minister Javadekar, Secretary Bimal Julka and Joint Secretary Supriya Sahu in attendance. The objective was to address the challenges and opportunities of the Phase III & IV of digitisation.
Addressing the cable operators and other representatives at the meeting, Javadekar said that he is mainly representing the customers who are large in numbers but have no voice because they are not providing any equipment or linkages. He said when the digitisation announcement was made for 2015-16, people said it is too far but he would like to say that Phase III is to be completed in 2015 so now it has to begin soon and Phase IV has to be finished in 2016. “We are talking about digitising 12 crore TV sets and I am confident the number will increase to 2 crore while we are in the process. 12 crore is an estimated number, it could be more. Such a number will be accomplished for the first time in the world. This will benefit you and the consumers both. Cable operators have done a big thing for the country. When cable channels started in 1993, it expanded quite rapidly from one home to another. Digitisation of 8 crore homes was a revolution. This happened in spite of government intervention. If the govt was involved, it would have taken longer.”
“I noticed in Phase I and II of digitisation, everything starts at the last moment. We need to get out of the last-minute rush mentality,” he commented.
He insisted that the government is here to help not to hinder the process, but there should be justice for the customers. He said that he asked DTH operators to keep a two-way passage in which case there would have been no need for ratings agencies also. By just adding technology there could be a two-way communication and DTH operators would know who is watching what.
He cited the example of how people are free to buy any mobile handset they want, but have no such choice with set top boxes, they have to pick whatever the MSO says. Interoperability of set top boxes is a very good thing, said Javadekar. Manufacturing set top boxes falls in line with PM Modi’s Make in India ideology. He said he met with set top box manufacturers who said they cannot sell in India because Chinese set top boxes are sold here. Eventually they export home-grown set top boxes to USA and Europe. To be competitive they need C5 benefit and telecom network equipment, he said.
He also said that he has decided to rid free to air channels from the 12+ ad cap.
Javadekar added that the motive is to provide customers with options and affordable TV and include home-made set top boxes in the digitisation process.
There has been immense pressure on government about the local manufacturing of set top boxes. Some of the issues that concern the last mile operators are the servicing of STBs, BIS mark boxes and local manufacturing. The Chinese boxes are not reliable enough for the long run.
Regarding the indigenization of the set top boxes the Minister said, that the concerns of the industry had been taken up with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Communications & IT and accordingly set top boxes were declared as part of “telecommunication network.” After these steps, ‘C form’ issue for the industry had been resolved. The Minister called upon the concerned stakeholders to take advantage of this initiative undertaken by the Government.
Emphasizing on C form the minister said, India's digitization is a partnership of stakeholders and government has facilitated C form issue for indigenous manufacturers.
He concluded by saying, “Indian TV Digitization is the most comprehensive exercise ever undertaken globally and I call upon indigenous manufacturers to take advantage of this initiative undertaken by Narendra Modi 's Govt.”
Earlier speaking on the occasion, Secretary, I&B Shri Bimal Julka stated that the Task Force provided an important platform to debate and overview issues related to the digitization implementation. It also provided an opportunity to understand the concern of stakeholders. The experience of such meetings during the first and second phase of implementation of the programme had been extremely useful in streamlining the roadmap for effective implementation.
You can watch the video here