Cable digitisation: Govt allows grace period of 15 days

Cable digitisation: Govt allows grace period of 15 days New Delhi: Government is going slow on blanking out analogue cable TV screens as about 25 percent of 1.6 crore households missed the deadline of switching over to digitised cable television on Monday.

Top government sources said that only a little more than a lakh of screens could have gone blank with the expiry of the deadline because the government does not want to wield the stick immediately.

"In order not to create inconvenience for the people, we are giving a transition time of 10 to 15 days depending on the ground-level situation," Information and Broadcasting Secretary Uday Kumar Varma said.

He, however, added that there was no question of the deadline being extended by the government.

With the deadline for the second phase of digitisation having passed yesterday, nearly 25 percent TV viewing homes still have not installed Set Top Boxes (STBs) in 38 cities that were to be covered.

As per the ministry's data, 1.6 crore cable TV houses had to be digitised by April 1.

Officials said that Multi System Operators (MSOs) and broadcasters have been told to switch off the signals in a phased manner and depending on the situation in various cities.

They said there is a huge diversity in the ground situation in various cities which the ministry would keep in mind while enforcing black outs.

As per data with the ministry, seven of the 38 selected cities--Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Faridabad, Allahabad, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Jodhpur--have reported 100 percent digitisation while Thane, Meerut and Jaipur have reported over 90 percent compliance.

Till Monday, Vishakhapatnam which has over 5 lakh TV sets, reported minimum figures of 12.18 percent digital TV sets. Other cities like Srinagar (20 percent), Coimbatore (28.89 percent), Jabalpur (34.87 percent), Kalyan Dombivli (38.59 percent) were also lagging behind.

I&B officials said they were coordinating with nodal officers in states to decide on the timing and manner of switch-off of analogue signals which will result in blank TV screens for non-digitised TV sets.

They said while digital switch-over was inevitable, they were also keeping in mind the problems faced by the digitisation drive at the local levels.

The Jabalpur figure was low as supply of STBs was less compared to the demand while political developments had some effect on STB installation drive in Srinagar, sources said.

The four cities of Gujarat - Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodra - along with Bangalore got an extension of the digitisation date following court orders. These cities require over 15 lakh STBs to installed but currently have more time before the government can enforce digitisation.

A senior official said on an average there was a daily increase of two percent in the digitisation figures and with black outs and phased switch-off of channels the installation drive was expected to pick up momentum.

"The most important aspect is that people have accepted digitisation and seeding is going on in full swing," I&B secretary Varma said.

Officials said apart from the cities with 100 percent and 90 percent digitisation figures, there were others cities which were fast closing in to become completely digitised.

As per ministry figures, by Monday, Ghaziabad, Aurangabad, Nashik, Pune, Sholapur had crossed 80 percent figures while Ranchi, Varanasi, Kanpur, Bangalore and Indore over 70 percent.

Vadodra, Lucknow, Nagpur and Bhopal had reported figures above 60 percent. Agra, Navi Mumbai, Howrah, Surat, Mysore and Ahmedabad had crossed the halfway mark while Patna, Pimpri Chinchwad and Rajkot were just below the 50 percent mark.

PTI