Just a few days after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) presented impressive figures pertaining to the amount of digitisation accomplished ahead of the scheduled deadline, there are reports about the figures being far from reality. 

The Cable Operators Digitisation Committee has now come forward in its response to the figures presented by the ministry, claiming that the I&B ministry has showed a reduced number of cable television connections to depict higher penetration. In his statement to PTI,  Cable Operators Digitisation Committee convenor Swapan Chowdhury said, “The claim is not true as Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has reduced the cable connection estimate in the four metros from 1.33 crore to just 68.40 lakh in three months.”

No more deadline extensions

Numbers were reduced to show higher penetration (Image Credit: Getty Images)

Chowdhury shared that despite estimating the number of combined cable connections of all four metros to be 1.33 crore in a meeting with I&B officials, the numbers were reduced at a later meeting. 

The ministry, in its recent statement, had revealed that it achieved 81 percent of cable TV digitisation across the four metros. Here it elaborated that the number is fairly high at 87 percent, considering the progress made by Direct To Home (DTH) services. Chowdhury added that the estimated figure of 1.33 crore had been arrived upon based on feedback provided by the cable operators' body and stressed that the reduced figure was incorrect.

“This was done deliberately to prove digitisation a success at the cost of consumers,” Chowdhury said. He even went on to state that ''confusion prevailed in all aspects of digitisation from MSOs to local cable operators to consumers''.

“Still there is no agreement between broadcasters and MSOs. Neither the MSOs nor the cable operators have signed any agreement,” Chowdhury said.

In fact, the cable operators are known to have approached the appellate authority TDSAT for a respite, after they failed to convince the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to make changes to the “unviable tariff order announced in April”.  Chowdhury added, “Hearing is complete and we expect the order any day, only then the next course of action can be decided. The tariff announced by Trai is next to impossible because of higher cost for digitisation,” Chowdhury also highlighted that the TRAI helpdesk was not providing enough information about the final costs. 

Television owners across the four metros have been audience to the recent aggressive publicity campaign in the electronic and print media undertaken by the I&B ministry. The ministry has been taking steps to bring about awareness pertaining to embracing the digital medium. Everything from print advertisements in local newspapers, SMS messages, to ads on all TV and radio channels, have been initiated by the ministry to inform people about the urgency to get set-top boxes (STBs), and the benefits of digitisation.  

An analysis of data and the progress review by the I&B ministry showed that Mumbai has already achieved nearly 100 percent digitisation. Kolkata has achieved 78 percent digitisation in cable alone, with DTH the percentage being 81 percent. In Delhi, the digitisation percentage of cable TV is 74 percent, and with DTH it has gone up to 81 percent. Chennai shows 60 percent cable digitisation, and with DTH it comes to 85 percent.

Customers with questions pertaining to the process, and other specifics can now use the toll-free number that the I&B ministry has set up. The ministry expects the move to help facilitate a smooth transition for customers to the digital platform, before the scheduled deadline – October 31, 2012.

News Sources 

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