With just 22 days remaining for the cable TV digitisation deadline of November 1, 2012, exchange4media takes stock of the preparations and ground realities. 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 a recent report, the Government has claimed that 73 per cent of the set top boxes (STBs) have been seeded on an average in the four metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata – and that work to install the remaining STBs is in rapid progress.
According to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, 67 per cent of installation of STBs has been done in Kolkata till the last week of September. As per the Census 2011 report, the total number of cable TV households in Kolkata stands at 20.44 lakh, of which STBs have been installed in 13.11 lakh households, excluding the households with DTH. If DTH is also included, then the number of households using digital signal goes up to 70 per cent.
While Suresh Sethiya, Director, Siti Cable Kolkata, didn’t disagree with the Government figure, which according to him has been has been arrived at after research and analysis, regarding the installation of STBs in Kolkata he said, “In the months of July and August the penetration was a bit slow, but since September the installation has picked up and the progress has been very satisfactory.”
He further said that Siti Cable is all set to meet the November 1 deadline and is equipped with a huge stock of STBs in its warehouses.
In a similar vein, Kanak Singh Rana, Director, Gujarat Television, an MSO operating in Kolkata, agreed with the Government figures and said, “We are also close to that figure and 60-65 per cent of digital penetration has been done.”
He noted that even as other players are at different stages of preparation, Gujarat Television is all set to switch over from analogue to digital on November 1.
Expecting law & order problem
Meanwhile, a section of the MSOs disagree with the Government figures and say that the figures are being manipulated. They are apprehensive of a law and order situation arising on November 1, when television screens go blank.
Samar Majumder, President, Ideal Cable Operators Association of Kolkata (ICOA) insisted, “The Government figure is totally wrong and as per our survey, only 30-32 per cent installation of set top boxes has been done till date.”
When asked what the next step will be, he replied, “The West Bengal Government has formed a Cable Operators Welfare Committee. We had a meeting on October 6, 2012 and have decided to send a letter, asking the I&B Ministry to postpone the digitisation deadline to June 2013 as we are not ready. With only 30 per cent of the STBs installed, we can’t switch off analogue on November 1.”
Both Pradip Pandya, MD, Kailash Cable, and Mrinal Chatterjee, Director, Kolkata Cable and Broadband Pariseva, also find the Government figures “totally incorrect” and fear that Kolkata is heading towards a huge law and order problem on November 1. Both stress that only 32-40 per cent of the STB installation has been done till date.
Pandya said, “There is no on-ground preparation for digitisation, we are just waiting for the deadline to come. We will either file a petition against the Government or we will run the analogue signal without our licence.”
According to Chatterjee, the main reason behind slow penetration is that people are refusing to install the set top box because of the low quality. “As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), all STBs should carry the BIS mark, but none of them qualify on that standard,” he maintained.
Another Kolkata-based MSO, on conditions of anonymity, said, “The way the Government is implementing digitisation is improper. It is not happening in the way we are playing out. If we will take the case of other countries, there the governments have fully co-operated in the process and have even given monetary support to the consumers to buy STBs, but here we are just putting the burden on the consumer to go digital.”
He lamented, “We are going about in an unprepared manner, which has led to lack of consumer interest.”
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