Around 20 per cent of the houses in the metropolitan cities have shifted from analogue to digital in the process of digitisation. The deadline, June 30, 2012, is just 26 days away, causing a concern among the customers and cable TV operators.
Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments have already sent the requests to the Central government to extend the deadline. There are also impending court cases on digitisation in Mumbai and New Delhi, said Roop Sharma, president, Cable Operators Federation of India.
Government is forcing digitisation on the industry to please foreign broadcasters. Neither the cable industry nor the customers want forced digitisation. Today, `25,000 crores is being spent by Indian customers to import the cheap quality boxes from Taiwan and China, she said.
The government lacked proper planning in implementation in the process of digitisation. “Why it did not set up or at least plan for indigenous set top box manufacturing facility? Almost `25,000 crores of the customer money will go to foreign manufactures at the time when there is huge demand for the dollar. The dwindling rupee value further pushes the prices of these set top boxes. According to the government, the MSO’s need to buy set top boxes and distribute it to the cable operators. However, it did not put any system in place for the independent cable operators,” she said.
When asked whether she brought these issues to the government notice, she said “Even being in the task force, the government is not ready to listen any of our concerns. It is not just a burden on the customer but also on the cable operator to the change the whole systems from analogue to digital which involves high costs. The new technicians need to be hired to work with digital systems, who may charge anywhere between `12,000-15,000,” she said.
The government is not putting any law for the broadcasters and asking them to regulate by themselves. However, there are many laws in place to hinder the growth of the cable operator. It is also dictating terms in the revenue share of the cable operator for each connection. According to the government, the cable operator can only take `45 for each connection. It is almost impossible for a small cable operator with 500 connections to survive in the industry with the heavy input costs like rents, cabling, and salaries. Around 20 per cent of the public such as some of the tax people, politicians, polices, goons are not paying for a cable connection. “How can we charge them for a set top box?” she questioned.
The cable TV industry is not against digitisation but against the systems followed in the process. For example, the government of USA has spent its own money and invested around $40 on each customer in the process of digitisation. It took 10 years for them to move 80 per cent of the country to digitisation. The analogue and digital co-exist with each other. However in India, the public money spent with short deadlines and removes analogue completely, she said.
Number of cable TV subscribers: 120 million
Number of people employed: 20 lakh
Number of cable operators: 60,000