The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has given 10 days time to leading MSOs to complete the formalities related to Consumer Application Forms (CAF) across the country. If the MSOs fail to do so within the stipulated time, the regulator has asked the broadcasters to shut down their respective signals by December 31. Filling of Consumer Application Forms is an effort by TRAI to make the entire distribution process identifiable and transparent.
“At the time of our earlier meeting with the regulator, we had completed the CAF formalities by 30-35 per cent, now it is close to 65 per cent. We are sure that we will be able to complete the process before the time expires,” said a leading MSO who wished not to be identified.
However, not all MSOs seem to be proactive regarding the development. “With the ongoing festive season, organisations usually don’t work to their full capacities. I believe that the timing of the decision is not good. We would abide by the norms prescribed by the regulator, but let us hope that MSOs are not to be blamed solely if the deadline is not met,” said another MSO which operates nationally. The MSOs have requested anonymity owing to the sensitive nature of the issue.
At the grassroots level, it is the Local Cable Operators (LCOs) who deal with the customers directly and are primarily responsible for collecting the Consumer Application Forms. Sources that exchange4media spoke to mentioned that many LCOs are unhappy with the regulator and that petitions have been filed in the TDSAT court recently. According to industry experts, these disputes between the LCOs and TRAI are the prime barriers for non-completion of CAFs.
The petitions in the TDSAT court have almost tripled in the last six months. But post the Supreme Court ruling that “TDSAT has no jurisdiction to hear any challenge to the regulation framed by the regulator”, it is likely that the parties may seek the High Court’s intervention. Therefore, probability of long judicial processes cannot be ruled out.
Analysts have also mentioned that some markets such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar have low CAF response as the operators at the grassroots have issues with TRAI and are unhappy with the developments.
Will Chennai also be affected?
The slow pace of digitisation in Chennai has been a cause for concern. As per sources, not even 5 per cent of the Chennai market has been digitised. On being asked about the status of CAF and the TRAI meeting, a senior official of the cable network community in Chennai said, “The consumer in Chennai is not ready with and for digitisation. TRAI is trying hard, but the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting cannot shut down the signals from the broadcasters here. Ideally, the signals should have been shut by now as they are transmitted on analog mode. Political factors are dominant and play a huge role in molding the distribution curve in the state. The CAF norms, therefore, do not even exist here practically.”
As per market sources, the nodal officers of digitisation in Chennai are Government officers and it is unlikely that anything will change in the Southern metro till the Lok Sabha Elections in 2014. The digitisation deadline for Chennai had expired in November 2012.
With inputs from Abid Hasan