Yes, she must. There’s no point making a charade of it when the on-ground reality is not what it should be with just 23 days left for the scheduled compulsory switch to digitally transmitted television in the four metros of Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. Over the last five months, MxMIndia has been speaking to various stakeholders on digitization. In fact right from the day our countdown started when there were 100 days to go for the June 30 Sunset Date, key stakeholders have been telling us that the deadline is unachievable.
The government has itself to blame. The digitization deadline has been known for a while, and one would’ve expected it to have moved faster if it was serious about the Sunset Date. The tariff order came in rather late, and one would’ve expected the babus to have worked backwards and establish a foolproof schedule.
Now, we have a situation that’s going to embarrass all.
A senior industry professional told me that after the June 1 taskforce meeting it was clear that deadline will be pushed by at least two months, if not three. Some influential cable professionals have been rooting for six months, but I think three months is fair, with a diktat that within six months, it ought to be total.
I also believe that there ought to be a significant incentive for early birds. Those who’ve switched subscribed and those who will in by September 30. The government must cut its levies and ask for these to be passed on to subscribers. Something like: buy a set-top box and get free connectivity for six months! Ensure this offer is only for the first three months, and after that it should be withdrawn. Also, subscribers should be allowed to pay in instalments.
Today, Anil Thakraney’s maid asked him for a thousand-buck loan. I am sure I am going to be asked for the same soon. It’s critical that the lowest common denominator in our country – and there is a sizeable population that can’t make ends meet – is finding it tough to embrace digitization. There’s of course the argument that no one likes to pay for software in India, but there is no denying that the move will impact the household budgets of crores of Indians.
So what’s the solution. Extend the deadline, yes, but just by two or three months. Offer an incentive for this period, and then bring back the taxes. Let this be the first deadline and have a final one of six months and ensure that all comply post that. A ‘Good Night’ date after the ‘Sunset’.
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Disclaimer: Although he is CEO and Editor-in-Chief of this site, Pradyuman Maheshwari’s views in Mediaah! are not necessarily those of the rest of the team and MxMIndia.com.