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Exclusive | No digitization deferment again, says industry

The deferment of digitalization of  cable TV services by four months from June 30 2012 to October 31 2012 is going to hit the plans of all the interested parties including the government hard. The decision to defer the plan for switchover from analogue to digitised signals was announced by the government as it was found that the metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata were not ready for it. Now all the TRAI regulations for digital addressable system will come into effect from 1st November, 2012. The assessment of ground realities compelled the ministry of I&B to set a new deadline, which it says will now be monitored more vigorously.
Says Jayant Changrani, Country Head & General Manager, NDS India, “We understand the regulation related concerns highlighted by cable operators to fully roll out digital set top boxes in Phase-I metros by the original deadline of 30 June. Considering this, the four month postponement of the phase-I deadline to 31 October is logical. However, we feel that the news has brought a lot of disappointment to those operators and broadcasters who were proactively adhering to the deadline by already digitalising or by preparing to digitalise.”  
Industry on the whole is disappointed with the deferment. Adds Ashok Venkatraman, CEO,  Media Content and Communications (MCCS), “we are quite disappointed by the turn of events and just hope that the first date is through. Echoing a similar sentiment, Pawan Jailkhani, executive vice president and head of revenue, 9X Media Group terms it as “very unfortunate. The governments should had atleast rolled out on June 30 and should have then pushed it.” Digitisation of the cable services in the entire country by December 2014 was one of the tasks that the I&B ministry had set for itself and the first step towards achieving this goal was its implementation in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai by June 30.
So what is the way ahead now?
Says Anuj Gandhi, group CEO, IndiaCast, “basically the government needs to give a timeline and there should be penalty clause / penalties for those who are responsible for the delay. It also needs to do pitch in and get into educating consumers joining hands with the broadcasters on the benefits of digitization to showcase benefits to consumer.”
There has to be clarity on what will be the difference between June30 to October 31. The ordinance on digitization was issued last year. Parties knew what is going to happen but no one bothered to monitor and track progress. This should not be the case now. Says Ashok Venkatraman, “now that the deferment has happened, the progress should be monitored and people should be held accountable. This is a period of transition, a period of flux and should be minimized." Adds Pawn Jailkhani, “we only hope there is no further delay. All stakeholders should stick to the new deadline. The 3-4 months loss to the industry is huge.”
Plans of many broadcasters will now get pushed by four months. They may have to rework on financial projections as the revenues from digitization had already been factored in revenues of FY 2012-13. Broadcasters who were planning new channels will need to relook at their plans. The agreements with parties may have to be relooked at also. So the hit in that sense is huge. The wisdom therefore is in avoiding the repeat of the deferment.

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