Uday Kumar Verma, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting played an important role in Phase I of the cable TV digitisation process. In conversation with exchange4media, Verma speaks about the digitisation process so far and how the preparations for Phase II are shaping up.
What is the update on digitisation in West Bengal?
Kolkata is a complicated market. About 95 per cent of the installation of set top boxes (STBs) has been done in Kolkata. We have suggested to Multi System Operators (MSOs) to deal with the practical problems and do things differently. We are getting status updates on a regular basis and expect the installation process to be completed by the end of this month.
How is the preparation going on for Phase II of digitisation?
The beauty of digitisation is that it is so market friendly that the market itself will ensure that it takes place. We have got the basic data from the MSOs and DTH operators and so far, I am satisfied with the preparations for Phase II. MSOs and DTH players have been asked to update us on a regular basis regarding the city-wise installation and penetration of STBs so that we can have a clear picture.
We are holding meetings with stakeholders and appointed nodal officers and have also constituted a task force that is overseeing this entire process. There are many cities in Phase II out of the total 38 cities that are already 60-70 per cent digitised, so it is not something that has to begin afresh.
Scarcity of STBs has been a matter of concern. To what extent will this impact the second phase of digitisation?
Scarcity is there but right now it is not that big an issue, since operators are aware about the demand for STBs and also how many boxes they have in their stock. It’s a matter of statistics and they have to place order according to that.
We will meet the Phase II deadline, which is March 31, 2013. We are trying to convince all stakeholders that since a Parliamentary deadline has been fixed, it has to be adhered to.
LCOs are demanding that they should also be issued license and not left at the mercy of MSOs. What is your opinion on this?
We have issued licenses to 50 LCOs in the metros to enable them to work at par with the MSOs. No one stops them from becoming an MSO, but they need to fill certain criteria.
There is also demand for indigenously made STBs, but first there should be domestic manufacturers. We will be happy if local manufacturers can provide the set top boxes. But two things need to be kept in mind – firstly, the price of STBs should be kept competitive and secondly, there should be a local production base.
Can we expect the same amount of promotion in Phase II as we saw in Phase I?
Yes of course, we will do promotions and that too on big platforms. As there are 38 cities to be covered, we will take the entire route to reach the consumers. A 360-degree campaign will be a key focus for our promotions.