Cable TV operators cited non-availability of set top boxes and sought a deadline extension

Bringing relief to cable TV households that are yet to shift to digital mode, the Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered a deadline extension.

Click here to download the 'Clash over Digital Addressable System' graphic.

They will now have time till November 5 to implement the Digital Addressable System (DAS) in Chennai.

Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar passed the interim order on a writ petition by the president of Chennai Metro Cable TV Operators’ Association, Johnson D. Kennedy. The Judge posted the matter for November 5 to get the Centre’s reply and for production of relevant records. The deadline for implementation of DAS had earlier been fixed as October 31.

The petitioner said that after the regulation directing implementation of DAS, the deadline had been extended twice. The prime reason was the absence of set top boxes. Even in January this year, after the Bill was passed by Parliament, the association had written to the Centre saying there was just 25 per cent penetration of digital cable set top box (STB) in Chennai. About 75 per cent of homes in Chennai needed more than 20 lakh STBs, it said.

The Association had been approaching the Information & Broadcasting Ministry pointing out the non-availability of STBs. The government’s claim that 90 per cent of houses in Chennai had STBs was a “totally incorrect statement,” it said.

There were roughly 40 lakh households in Chennai DAS area out of a population of 1.20 crore. Of this, only 1.64 lakh homes had STBs. Therefore, the Association sought the deferment of DAS implementation.

The association requested the Court to forbid the Centre from rolling out 100 per cent DAS in Chennai till more STBs were made available by multiple system operators (MSOs). IT asked for an extension in the deadline for implementation of DAS.

Strongly opposing the stay application, S. Haja Mohideen Gisthi, senior Central government standing counsel, said the installation of DAS had been initiated from January 2011. Further, the ministry had granted sufficient time and also entered into an agreement with MSOs to make available sufficient number of STBs.

City lags in digitisation

While discrepancies between figures provided by the Ministry and cable operators have emerged an area of concern, both parties agree that Chennai lags far behind the other metros when it comes to digitisation.

Chennai is at the bottom of the list with 62 per cent digitisation of cable TV homes and 86 per cent DTH (direct-to-home) penetration.

Mumbai is at the top of the list with 114 per cent cable TV digitisation and 110 per cent DTH penetration. Delhi and Kolkata follow.

(With inputs from Ramya Kannan)

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