The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has extended the 30th June 2012 deadline for digitization of cable TV in the four metros- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, by four months. The switchover date from analog to digital cable tv systems is now 31st October 2012. This means that cable tv subscribers, MSOs and operators in the 4 cities get more time to switch to digital and install set top boxes.

The Ministry mentioned that the pace of installation of set top boxes, which are needed for receiving digital broadcasts had not picked up pace since the TRAI’s orders on Tariff & Interconnection, and quality of service & consumer complaints redressal were issued late, owing to which their implementation is yet to take place. After consultations with all stake holders and in public interest the Ministry said that it had to extend the deadline.

According to the Ministry, regulations on Tariff & Interconnection were issued by TRAI only on 30th April 2012 instead of being issued in January, 2012.  The Quality of Service Regulations and the Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations were issued on 14th May, 2012 by TRAI, according to which, every Broadcaster and MSO was required to publish its Reference Interconnect Offers (RIOs) within 30 days of issue of the Regulation, and another 30 days were required for negotiations between Broadcasters and MSOs. As per the Ministry, it’s only then that the MSOs and LCOs arrive at agreements which enable consumers to have a clear indication of the terms and conditions for installing Set Top Boxes and the prices of channels on an a-la-carte as well as on a bouquet basis.

Similarly, in its second order issued on 14th May, 2012, the TRAI has mandated that every MSO or its linked Cable Operator has to put in place a Consumer Complaint Redressal System consisting of a complaint centre with toll free consumer care number, web based complaint monitoring system as well as appoint or designate one or more nodal officers and publish consumer’s charter for Digital systems. So even this order needs time for its implementation. All the TRAI regulations for Digitization will come into effect from 1st November, 2012.

The Ministry has also said that it will issue warning letters to those going slow on their written commitments, and will take action under the provisions of the Cable Act, wherever and whenever necessary.

The Indian government had approved an ordinance in October 2011, phasing out analogue cable networks and make digitization of cable networks mandatory by 2014, on the recommendations of the TRAI. During the process, tv viewers who receive cable without conditional access or set top boxes are required to switch to a digital platform. The deadline for digitization was set as 30th June 2012 for the 4 metros and 31st December 2014 for the rest of the country.

DTH operators and Multi System Cable providers, which are competing with each other, are already running awareness campaigns across different media. Associations such as the the News Broadcasters Association are also contributing. These stake-holders have also set-aside funds for investing in digital systems and running awareness campaigns. With the new deadline, they’ll have to extend the duration of these campaigns, making more investment in publicity across various mediums.

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