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I&B ministry asks state chief secretaries to ensure completion of cable digitization

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-09-2017 Harveen Ahluwalia

New Delhi: The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry has sought co-operation from the chief secretaries of all the states and Union territories, in a bid to ensure successful completion of cable digitization.

In a letter dated 1 September, the ministry said that it has been receiving complaints of transmission of analog signals by cable operators across the country and asked the chief secretaries to look into the matter.

“These complaints are being sent to the concerned authorised officers i.e. district magistrate, sub-divisional magistrate and commissioner of police for taking immediate necessary action as per the extant Cable TV Act/Rules, but no response is being received in most of the cases from the authorised officers,” said Jayashree Mukherjee, additional secretary of I&B ministry, in the letter.

Mukherjee added that authorised officers have the right to seize the equipments of erring cable operators in order to achieve complete digitization of cable networks.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2011 had mandated a complete switch-over of the analog cable TV networks to digital addressable system (DAS) in four phases. Phase IV was officially completed on 31 March 2017.

However, according to cable TV industry estimates, over 30% of the total television households in Phase III and Phase IV areas (estimated at 95 million by the government) are still using analog signals, instead of installing set-top boxes, Mint reported in May.

Under Phase III, urban areas across 34 states and Union territories, including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar, were covered; Phase IV covered the entire rural India.

Media industry executives have repeatedly cited lack of cable infrastructure in rural areas as the primary reason for analog transmission.

Additionally, cable distribution operators like direct-to-home platforms and multi-system operators (MSOs) are not allowed to share the infrastructure and have to maintain an independent set-up for distribution of satellite television services, leading to an increase in overall costs.

“Problem is in the far flung areas where cable operators don’t have an infrastructure in place. This entire process would have been much easier, had the government allowed infrastructure sharing for cable distribution,” Anil Malhotra, chief operating officer at Siti Networks Ltd said, speaking to Mint earlier.

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