Latest reports confirm that several pay channels have become inaccessible in Kolkata across homes that have not gone digital yet. The Times of India reports that the analogue transmission of sports channels became inaccessible some weeks back, and early this week, kids and English news channels went off too. Incidentally, even as the blackout is in sync with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry's pre-scheduled date for transition, it comes at a time when the state government has advised MSOs against blackout. Multi-service operators have shared in their statement to the Times of India that they will stop the transmission of all English movie channels in analogue on Thursday. And it is only after this move that the process is expected to 'encounter hiccups as a determined state government prepares to foil the Centre's attempt to enforce digitisation without taking the state government into confidence'.

Control room for a smoother digitisation (Image credit: Getty Images)

Some pay channels in analogue gone blank (Image credit: Getty Images)

Quoting an MSO official, the report added, “What should have been a combined initiative to phase out analog channels and go completely digital has turned into a political tussle with the state opposing I&B's plan and the Centre refusing to initiative a dialogue with state authorities. As a result, the industry is facing threat from both quarters.” While another stakeholder added, “On the one hand, we face the threat of losing our license from the I&B ministry if we do not stick to the switchover deadline. On the other hand, disregarding the wishes of the state government is not an option as it will become difficult to conduct business. While both sides have valid arguments for and against the digital roll-out, it is they who need to sit, talk and arrive at a solution rather than train the gun on MSOs.”

Interestingly, subscribers are miffed about the fact that the state government has not specified a deadline. The report adds that with the state voicing its opposition to the transition, 'the momentum in seeding of set-top boxes has been lost'. Quoting an industry official, the report added further, “Major MSOs have managed to seed 75-80% boxes. The rest will happen only when the analog channels go off. Also, there is a 10-15% mismatch between the original subscriber base announced by cable operators and the revised estimates being handed out now. One just can't continue to wait endlessly till every home has a box because that is never going to happen voluntarily.”

Residents across Chennai hoping for a deadline extension for cable TV digitisation will have to live with the current deadline as the Madras HC recently refused to extend the deadline further. The Times of India at the time had reported that the Tamil Nadu government and local cable TV operators could not get the Madras HC to extend the deadline for cable TV digitisation beyond November 19. A bench comprising Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice S Rajeswaran refused to further extend the deadline on grounds that the interim order expired on November 19 itself. 

The Madras High Court had previously pumped in some more breathing time for the residents of Chennai to go digital and set November 19 as the deadline for cable TV digitisation. The decision came days after the court granted Chennai an extension till November 5 from the earlier October 31 deadline after it was found that the digitisation process was far from complete.

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