Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) urged the government to go ahead withdigitisation implementation deadline (July 1, 2012) in the metros. Naresh Chahal, director (Finance) of IBF said, “Even if the government extends the deadline by two months, there will still be last minute chaos. It is the general tendency of the public or cable operator to abide by it only if the deadline is nearing. Postponement of deadlines will not yield results.”
It may be recalled that earlier the Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra governments had requested that the Centre postpone the deadline for digitisation in the metros as there only 20 per cent of the people had set top boxes.
Talking about benefits of digitisation, Naresh said, “It will bring in huge benefits to the customer, broadcaster and the government. It is not just quality, the customer will be able to watch around 500 channels. As of now, the quality deteriorates after the first 30-40 channels. The customer also does not need to depend on the cable operator’s discretion to watch a specific channel. He can pay and subscribe to his choice of channels and all at the same clarity. Value added services like movies on demand, games and other interactive programmes will be the icing on the cake.”
Digitisation of television will also bring in transparency in the industry. In the current scenario, cable operators are declaring only 20 per cent of teh actual subscribers while paying the broadcasters. The operators also avoid huge taxes as a result of this underdeclaration, he explained.
As an added benefit, digitisation will not only bring revenues to the broadcasting industry but will also enhance revenues significantly by the way of income tax, service tax and entertainment tax to the government. The IBF is also hoping there will be a significant reduction in the carriage fee that broadcasters are paying to the MSOs, he said.
For many years, the carriage fee, the amount that broadcasters pay to the MSOs to be on cable TV, has been informal. However, TRAI recently interfered and legitimised the carriage fee. After the concerns from the broadcasters, it has indicated that the carriage fee level between 50 paise to `1 per subscriber per year is reasonable. Anything more than that needs TRAI intervention. The IBF is also confident that this will reduce huge costs to the channels that they incur as a result of paying the MSOs.
The set top box is a one-time investment for the customer. He can also pay the amount in instalments to the operator, if he cannot afford to pay it in full. This will not only benefit him but the entire industry, he added. Talking about the concerns on imported set top boxes, he said, “We want consumer friendly digitisation. There will be indigenously manufactured set top boxes in the second and third phase of digitisation.”