Digitisation deadline to be deferred

Written by Ashish Sinha | New Delhi | Updated: May 30 2012, 09:06am hrs
In anticipation of an adverse comment from the cases filed in Delhi and Mumbai high courts by cable distributors, the government is set to grant a three to six months extension to the June 30 deadline for the much-publicised mandatory rollout of digital addressable system (DAS) in the four metros.

DAS rollout meant a mandatory digital set-top-box for every cable subscriber and the end of analogue cable services.

This development comes just a month before the expiry of the June 30 deadline. Sources said some operators have gone to court questioning the rationale for the June 30 digitisation deadline when the tariff-order from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) were issued only on April 30, around a week after the Cable norms were notified. "By law, there should be a gap of a minimum of 180 days when such changes in Cable laws/tariff structures are announced. From April 30, a six-month gap will mean September 30. Therefore, the I&B ministry can push up the deadline to either September 30 or October 31 (if considering from May 31) or November 30 (if extending from June 30)," said a senior executive from the cable industry.

According to government sources, the I&B ministry is expected to make an announcement to this effect shortly.

The move is expected to disappoint both broadcasters and multi-service operators who were rapidly seeding the digital set-top-boxes in the metros.

This comes at a time when the information and broadcasting ministry has received numerous representations from MSOs, local cable operators and other stakeholders for postponing the deadline.

The immediate impact will be on the money spent for the ongoing public service campaigns supporting digitisation on television, radio and section of print media costing around R1 crore.