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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Broadcasters show concern over attempt to delay cable digitization

NEW DELHI: With the deadline for digitization of cable addressable systems barely a month away, broadcasters are concerned that the June 30 timeline for the switchover may not be adhered to.Digital cable spells great advantages—a wider choice of channels coupled with better quality for viewers while it promises transparency in subscription and a lower carriage fees for broadcasters. Broadcasters across the board have supported the government's move supplementing it with awareness campaigns and industry tie-ups. 

However, now there is a growing anxiety among them as they sense efforts are being made to delay the shift to digital cable. Expressing concern Sri Adhikari Brothers (SAB) vice-chairman and managing director Markand Adhikari said, "From the last few days, it looks like there are some deliberate efforts being made by interested parties to extend the deadline of digitization. If this happens, it would be a cruel blow to the industry." He added: "Eight years of effort to introduce digitization will get a big jolt unless the message goes out that the process can't be halted. If digitization is halted, it means nothing has improved for the industry for a decade. Channels are promoting the digitization heavily on their respective platforms for the last two months. We will all look like fools." 

Disney UTV MD Ronnie Screwala warned against any delay in the switchover to digitization. He said, "It's been a 20-year wait for this and will be disappointing to see yet another extension. There is still a lot of work to be done — with consumers—with mindset changes and I think we all have had some years to plan this. Let's accept the timelines and move forward." Turner International India Ltd, South Asia, MD Siddharth Jain, also stressed the need to meet the deadline, saying, "Timely implementation of digitization is very desirable and the benefits would accrue to all stakeholders along the value chain. Consumers will enjoy better quality, tremendous variety in content and subscription revenues will see actual growth. Digitization is being successfully implemented in international markets in Europe and in Asia like Japan and South Korea and we are positive about the road ahead for India. We strongly urge the government to not delay the already announced sunset date." 

N P Singh, chief operating officer, Multi Screen Media Private Limited, said, "It's about time that the digitization process gathered further momentum to meet the July 1 timeline. We have been hearing murmurs about a likely postponement of the sunset date and believe that any delay at this stage can derail the entire process." The broadcasters feel that it is not possible for news, media and small players to survive in this haphazard, unorganized, unilateral carriage fee scenario. As Adhikari said, "It is not advisable for pay channels too. It looks like the government is not serious about nourishing the broadcast industry and it wants to restrict it in a few selected hands." Adhikari was supported by Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd CEO Tarun Katiyal, who said, "Digitization will give the consumer an opportunity to choose from nearly 500 channels allowing them freedom of choice along with excellent picture quality. It will also work excellently for broadcasters and distributors with increase in subscription revenues and a reduction in carriage fee." 

Katiyal added, "All stakeholders, starting with the end consumer, distribution platforms, broadcasters, content providers and government stand to benefit as digitization will bring in transparency, improved quality of service and fair play." Added Network 18 group CEO Sai Kumar, "Digitization is indeed a very progressive move by the government that will give consumers abundant choice, high quality content and make the industry viable. We at Network 18 are confident of its success. The broadcasting fraternity has been working closely with partners to facilitate its implementation, apart from a drive to build awareness with viewers and there are many more initiatives planned. Given the current momentum, it is essential that all stakeholders come together at this stage to ensure its timely and efficient implementation."


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