Pricing, procurement of set top boxes, slow signing of agreements between MSOs and broadcasters were some of the key issues pointed out at the 9th Task Force meeting on digitisation
BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | July 28, 2015
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has released minutes of the 9th Task Force meeting held on July 7, 2015 to take stock of the progress of digitisation in Phase 3 and 4 areas. As is known, the cut-off date for digitisation in these markets is December 31, 2015.
Held under the chairmanship of Additional Secretary, Jitendra Shankar Thakur, the meeting was attended by all the major stakeholders, including representative from various government and trade bodies. The meeting highlighted the key issues/ problems faced by the various stakeholders in the implementation of digitisation in Phase 3 and 4 markets.
Some of these issues are as follows:
Channel pricing considered the main hurdle in Phase 3 markets
The core hurdle lay in pricing, with some broadcasters proposing agreements on analogue rates till December 2015, while others were keen on having RIO rates. According to the representative from GTPL, there were legal issues regarding tariff orders, which had been contested in court.
As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), pricing can be different for different markets. The representative from Hathway mentioned that they too were in negotiations with broadcasters, but no agreements had been closed so far.
The representative from Den Network stated that except for one broadcaster they had not received any response to their request for interconnect agreements. The representative from HITS said that they too had not received any response to their request for interconnect agreements from broadcasters.
Siticable Networks’ representative mentioned that as per an analysis of urban areas carried out by them, it may not be feasible for any operator to carry out digitisation in urban areas having only a few hundred TV households. He stated that broadcasters were insisting on analogue agreements at present.
Few broadcasters sign agreements with MSOs
A representative from the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) mentioned that some broadcasters had entered into agreements with regional MSOs.
Meanwhile, TRAI mentioned that three broadcasters – namely, Star, MSM and TV18 – had informed the Authority that they had received 55 requests from MSOs so far, out of which they had signed commercial deals with two MSOs while deals with 11 MSOs were at an advance stage of negotiation.
Some MSOs are sitting on the fence
The TRAI representative also addressed concerns of a few broadcasters, who informed that some MSOs were holding out till September to send their requests for agreements.
The Chairperson asked the TRAI representative to get the details of these MSOs from broadcasters. Apprehending that there may be some gap areas/ MSO deficient areas, the Joint Secretary asked the IBF representative to get the details of these areas from broadcasters and intimate the same to the MIB.
Procurements of set top boxes (STBS)
The representative from CEAMA (Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association) informed that no major orders had been received by the industry from MSOs so far regarding set top boxes.
Representatives from Siticable and Hathway informed that they were in talks with indigenous STB manufacturers. Representative from DTH Association informed that they had procured about 3 million STBs from Videocon. The Chairperson remarked that there should be an endeavour on the part of MSOs as well to start using indigenously manufactured STBs in their network.
Inconsistency in seeding plans of DTH
Regarding the seeding reports received from DTH operators, it was informed that there were inconsistencies in their reports which should be rectified by them. Besides this, the DTH operators have been asked to map the data with the urban areas list issued by the MIB.
Regarding the seeding data from MSOs, it was also informed that reports had been received from about 50 per cent of MSOs and that the data was being compiled.
LCOs and MSOs at loggerhead in Assam, Maharashtra
Representative of LCOs from Assam said that MSOs were stopping the signals to LCOs without any reason and added that the local authorised officers did not take cognizance of any violation of the provisions of the Cable TV Act. He added that there was no redressal mechanism for violations of the Cable TV Act at state level and the cable operators did not have the means to file cases with the TDSAT. The Joint Secretary mentioned that 12 Regional Units (RUs) were being set up for implementation of DAS in Phase 3 areas. These RUs will hold workshops on digitisation where all issues shall be discussed with the District Nodal officers nominated by the State Governments.
Similarly, the LCO representative from Maharashtra expressed the concerns with the MSOs, stating that there was no standard format of agreement He pointed out that LCOs were coerced to signing such agreements in Phase 1 and Phase 2.
The Joint Secretary added here that the matter of interconnect agreements would be addressed to TRAI for resolution.
The meeting concluded with the Chairperson urging all stakeholders to ensure the timely implementation of digtisation by the December 31 deadline.