Starting today till Sunday, four metros – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, will have to brace themselves for a two-minute blackout on television, as broadcasters make attempts to convince viewers to make the switch to digital signal before the pre-set deadline. The Times of India now reports that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all broadcasters will switch off transmission, at the same time at 7:58 pm, 8:58 pm and 9:58 pm to make way for an advertisement in both Hindi and English.  

The 30-second advertisement that will play across channels, will essentially remind viewers across the four metros to install a set-top box before the deadline, or just forego the idea of viewing television. The report confirms further that the advertisement will end with a brief warning in English, “Go digital or go blank”, and in Hindi, “Set top box lagayein ya TV bhool jayein”.

No more deadline extensions

Go digital or go blank (Image credit: Getty Images)

We’re inching close to the November 1, 2012 deadline for the first phase of cable TV digitisation in the country. After that date, digitisation will become the norm across Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Now while we are still away from that date, broadcasters are doing their best to persuade viewers to make the switch to digital signals. 

It was only recently reported that the deadline for cable TV transition (read digitisation) got pushed further to November 1, 2012 after it was found that only 25 percent of set top boxes were placed in cable TV homes across the four metros, just days before the switch was originally scheduled (June 30, 2012).

Reports at the time also indicated delays also occurred in the signing of interconnect agreements between cable operators and Multi-system Operators (MSOs). All MSOs were to install a consumer redressal system, complete with a complaint centre with toll free consumer care number, web based complaint monitoring system, while also designating one or more nodal officers and publishing consumer's charter. This process had not been completed effectively, leading to the delay. 

At the round table on implementation of cable TV digitisation, Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Uday Kumar Varma clarified that there will be no more extensions to the deadline set for the implementation of set-top boxes (STBs) across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Reports quoted Varma as saying, “Given the fact that government is mandated by Parliament to ensure digitisation in the time it is notified, there is no possibility of further extension. My appeal and request to all of you is to conclude negotiations quickly, seed the set top boxes….and ensure that on 1st November it is fully functional.”

The round table also saw TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar and the stakeholders including broadcasters, MSOs and Local Cable Operators as attendees. Reports add further that Varma also rejected the suggestion that the digitisation process in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai was very slow.

He was quoted here as saying, “You can't say that it is very slow. If you judge from the space of seeding of Set Top Boxes (STBs) (it is about) 35 to 40 per cent. I think most of the MSOs have assured us that they should be able to do the seeding in these metros.”

When asked about Delhi, Varma added that the problem with Delhi was that there were too many players. He added that, “But they are still doing it and we are hopeful that they will do it (on time).” As for Chennai, he added, “Once they are able to put the process in place, it would not take much time. Because there is much of multiplicity of MSOs in Chennai.”

To know what cable TV digitisation actually cost you, click here. 

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