With more than Rs. 70 crore of taxpayers’ money riding on it, the fate of Arasu Cable, which does not have a licence, is hanging fire.

The ministry of information and broadcasting is yet to grant the State-owned cable TV corporation a licence to operate under the DAS regime.

The multi-system operator (MSO) is already the biggest in the State outside of Chennai. It has set up a digital head-end in the city on its operational premises in Nungambakkam using equipment it moved from its head-end in Vellore.

Its managing director D. Vivekanandan claimed that 1,100 local cable operators with a subscriber base of 14 lakh in the city had already signed up with the MSO and it had placed an initial order for the procurement of 50,000 digital set-top boxes.

But the company is a little perplexed by the delay in issue of licence to commence operations in Chennai under DAS. The managing director and his associates had even been invited by the Ministry in June to discuss plans for the DAS rollout — initially intended for mid-year and later extended to October 31.

“There has been a U-turn in the approach of the Ministry towards Arasu Cable in recent weeks,” Mr. Vivekanandan said.

More recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India sent an internal letter to the Ministry’s secretary recommending that policy framework be put in place to ensure that government or government-owned entities do not enter the business of broadcasting and or distribution of TV channels.

Arasu Cable TV was originally started by the previous DMK regime soon after then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi fell out with his grandnephews, the Maran brothers. It was then seen as a move to curb the influence and reach of Sumangali Cable Vision, a multi-system operator, in the cable distribution sector.

However, the company was revived by the AIADMK after it came to power. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had said the decision to revive the company was intended to end monopolistic practices in the sector and benefit consumers.

Keywords: Arasu Cable TV