Cable TV digitalisation deadline put off by four months

The decision to defer the plan for switchover from analogue to digitalised signals was announced by the government today as it was found that the metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata were not ready for it.

Last Updated: Jun 20, 2012, 22:00 PM IST

New Delhi: The much-trumpeted digitalisation of Cable TV services in four metros will now have to wait for four months beyond July 1, when it was originally scheduled to be introduced.

The decision to defer the plan for switchover from analogue to digitalised signals, which promises better TV viewing, was announced by the government today with a warning of strict penal action if the new deadline is not met.

"The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has decided to modify the 30th June deadline for a complete switch over to 31st October 2012," the I&B ministry said in a statement after the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata were found to be grossly unprepared.

"All the TRAI regulations for Digital Addressable System will come into effect from 1st November, 2012," the statement added.

It said that the assessment of ground realities, compelled the Ministry of I&B to set a new deadline which would now be monitored more vigorously.

Digitalisation of the cable services in the entire country by December 2014 is one of the ambitious tasks that the I&B ministry has set for itself and the first step towards achieving this goal was its implementation in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai by June 30.

Installing Set Top Boxes (STBs) in each cable viewing household is a precondition for Digitalisation and as per official sources even a fortnight before the June 30, it was estimated that only 30 per cent of households had acquired STBs.

"The seeding of STBs in cable viewing households was not satisfactory so a new deadline has been set. The state governments involved had sought an extension of six months till December 31st. However we have agreed to a postponement of deadline till October 31 and this time we plan to monitor it very strictly," a senior official said.

The ministry said that Multi System Operators (MSOs), Local Cable operators (LCOs) or other stakeholders could face action if they don't match the new schedule.

"The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will issue warning letters to those going slow on their written commitments. Needless to add that both, the Ministry of I&B and TRAI, will take action under the provisions of the Cable Act, wherever and whenever necessary," the statement said.

The ministry said that it is "imperative that the modified target deadline is set with strict benchmarks to ensure that no complacency sets-in in the system and the new target date is achieved collectively by all the stakeholders."

Officials said that the I&B ministry had the power to suspend or revoke the registration of Local cable operators (LCOs) or Multi System Operators (MSOs) if they violated one or more terms and conditions of registration which were mandatory under Digitalisation.

"While the Ministry has agreed to postpone the date for four Metros, it also has the option of taking penal action against stakeholders who do not take the required steps to Digitalise the cable services in the coming days," a senior official said.