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Reporter’s Diary: Of TRAI diktat & digitisation deadlines

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Reporter’s Diary: Of TRAI diktat & digitisation deadlines

I am a TV buff and I like my TV viewing to be as less interrupted by ads as possible. So when TRAI set a limit of 12 minutes of ads per hour of programming this week, I am rejoicing. Not all share my joy though. Understandably, broadcast associations and advertisers are reacting strongly to this cap on ad time.

Once implemented, this move will impact ad rates and channel revenues. For viewers, this would mean less distraction while watching their favourite soaps. Keeping viewer stickiness in mind, quite a few channels have already switched over to having shorter commercial breaks of one or two minutes, just so that no one reaches for the remote during the ad breaks.

Meanwhile, industry stakeholders are stressing that the current focus should be on the cable digitisation process. While the digitisation deadline of July 1, 2012 is not that far away, the ground realities say an altogether different story. Shortage of set top boxes (STBs), shortage of manpower to carry out the installation of the set top boxes, customer apathy and reluctance to shell out the extra money required for the installation of STBs… All these have added to the list of woes for MSOs and LCOs.

Cable operators body in Mumbai has gone as far as approaching the Mumbai High Court for respite. No one is confident of meeting the digitisation deadline in any of the four cities which fall in the first phase of the process – viz. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

Fearing a customer backlash, MSOs and LCOs in some areas have even sought police protection as they fear some degree of violence when people come out to protest the switching off of their cable connections on July 1.

At this moment, the scenario is murky and there is no definitive authority to address the various issues being raised. One wonders why there is silence from the Government’s side…

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