Parliament on Monday passed The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2011 that will digitalise cable TV and bring transparency in the system to benefit all stakeholders, including consumers and cable operators.

“The legislation will regulate cable operators and digitalise the analog TV network across the country in a phased manner by the end of 2014…it also gives the government the right to cancel licences of cable operators who flout rules,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said in the Rajya Sabha while taking part in the discussion on the Bill. Already passed by the Lok Sabha, the Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha.

Pointing out that the legislation would end the fight for ratings among channels to gain more advertisements, Ms. Soni said: “TRP [television rating point] is a bane of the TV programmes as it leads to showing of obscene materials and superstition…the bill addresses this issue. It also has provisions for effective monitoring of contents of the programmes aired through designated officers.”

Assuring MPs that the government would make efforts to provide cheaper set-top boxes at an affordable price of Rs.1,000 to Rs.1,200, Ms. Soni said set-top boxes would be either indigenously manufactured or imported from China and South Korea. “We are in talks with an association of manufacturers of set-top boxes to produce them indigenously,” she added.

Asserting that the new bill was neither anti-poor nor against small cable operators, Ms. Soni said it would benefit customers by providing a la carte selection of channels and video-on-demand, while it would help broadcasters and cable operators raise their advertisement and subscription revenue.

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