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Will digitisation deadlines be met?

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Will digitisation deadlines be met?

The deadline set for digitisation, the first phase of which is June 30, 2012 for the four metros, is fast approaching and with it comes various questions on how the targets would be achieved and the impact it would have on stakeholders. “Digitisation will benefit all,” said Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s Joint Secretary Supriya Sahu. “It will provide a window of opportunity to all stakeholders and even consumers,” added Sahu.

One of the first areas of concern is making set top boxes (STBs) available to consumers. Sahu believes that this requisite, despite the lag in the required and the received STBs, will be met. She said, “The Ministry has emphasised on this from the very beginning. We need more than 10 million STBs and we have received only two million till date. However, we do believe that the rest we will be in place shortly and that this will not be an area of concern. We have also been assured that these are good quality STBs.”

Sahu stated that all the four metro cities are “almost ready” for digitisation.

Ashok Mansukhani, President, MSO Alliance pointed out that while the (multi service operators) MSOs are “fully committed” to digitisation, they need support from the government and there are some real issues facing digitisation. He said, “There are three main issues. First, the number of channels, which we believe should be left to us. Second is that only 20 percent of the required STBs have been received so far and STBs are a problem. Finally, we should accept that it will take some time to develop the broadcaster-MSO relationship.”

Another aspect that can come in the way of digitisation is the role of the local cable operators (LCOs). Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operator Federation of India (COFI) remarked, “No one understands what a cable operator has to go through. The business can become unviable and many of the LCOs will even have to exit the business. We want digitisation because it will bring transparency but the process of the mechanism is not correct right now.”

Sharma is of the opinion that there are many points to be discussed on the matter such as customer service, revenue sharing, providing of STB and so on. She said, “We have to pay Rs 1 lakh to MSOs for STBs but how will we get the money back, as consumers are not ready to pay.”

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