At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, several households in the city, which are yet to install set top boxes, nervously turned on their television sets fearing that the threat of the cable blackout announced by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had been implemented. There was relief all around when they realised that most of their channels were still available on Thursday.
Following West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s remarks on Tuesday — she had warned of yet another confrontation with the Centre on the issue of compulsory digitisation if the option of a simultaneous analogue signal was not kept open — most broadcasters continued transmitting both digital and analogue signals. There were some channels that went off the air, but by midday all had been restored, Suresh Sethia, director of Siti cable told The Hindu.However, how long the analogue option will be available is not clear. Reports of an extension of two weeks to a month are doing the rounds, but no one is exactly sure how long the respite will continue.
“We know that we will be able to provide set top boxes to all customers served by us in three weeks. However, there are other multi-sector operators (MSOs) in the city and it is not known how long they will take,” Mr. Sethia pointed out.
According to sources, Ms. Banerjee has asked broadcasters to continue proving the option of analogue signals till set top boxes are set up in every household. According to estimates, there are about 40 lakh homes yet to make the switch to the digital connection. While the figures released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting suggest that 80 per cent of these homes have been covered, the State government estimates that only about 50 per cent have been covered.
Given the instructions from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, households which had not made the switch faced the likelihood of a cable blackout, but for the last minute intervention by Ms. Banerjee.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, she said: “Ensuring digitisation can certainly be done, but it cannot be done overnight,” and added: “We will not allow it.”