With more than Rs.70 crore of tax payer money riding on it, the future of the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation is hanging fire with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting yet to grant the corporation a licence to operate under the DAS regime.

The MSO (multi-system operator) is already the biggest in the State outside of Chennai, and 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 its initial order for the procurement of 50,000 digital set-top boxes.

But the company is a bit perplexed by the delay in the 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 the plans for the DAS rollout – initially intended in mid-year and later extended to October 31. “There is a U-turn in the approach of the Ministry towards Arasu Cable in recent weeks,” the managing director added.

More recently, the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) put out an internal letter to the Ministry’s secretary recommending that the policy framework be put in place to ensure that government or government-owned entities be not allowed to enter into 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 grand-nephews, 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 has said the decision to revive the company was to end monopolistic practices in the sector and benefit consumers.

  • Its MD was invited in June by Centre to discuss plans for rollout

  • Company perceives a U-turn in Ministry’s approach