Jaldi 5 with Roop Sharma: Govt must be transparent with consumers on digitization

24 Sep,2012

Roop Sharma

She has been one of the most vocal voices in various discussions on digitization having been part of the cable industry for over two decades. While the government came up with a status report stating that 68 per cent of the TV households in the four metros was digitized, in the run-up to the Sunset date of October 31, we first asked Roop Sharma, founder President of the Cable Operators Federation of India, on what the reality is on the ground.


1. We have a little over a month to go for digitization in the four metros. If the government estimates of last week were to be believed, by now over 70 per cent of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai would be digitized. What is your information?

Well, there are still some issues, but we think the government figures are off the mark. Our figures are as follows:


Corrected STB Penetration Table -17 September 2012

( Includes DTH HH as part of Multiple TV HH not considered by I&B)

1. Ministry has not included DTH TV HH in multiple TV HH where as it should have done so, being part of the same universe.
2. Basis of % of TV HH in the Metros is hypothetical. Mechanism of its working out or its source has not been mentioned.



The time has come to incentivize MSOs, but instead the licences have been cancelled of two of them.


We are on September 24, and the price that consumers would have to pay is still not out, so things need to be moving faster.


Broadcasters need to also ensure that there is availability of digital signals in all four metros.


2. What is your information: are the lower income groups in these cities buying set-top boxes?

They have been asking many questions. They want to know how much it will really cost them. Remember, some of them don’t even have colour television sets.


Unfortunately, there is only one group representing consumers in the various taskforce meetings. Consumers would like to know how much it will really cost them.


There will be an uproar if people don’t get to watch TV from November 1 because of this lack of information.


3. There is a worry that there will be some piracy in the form of pilferage of signals after November 1…

Why should there be any such pilferage? The broadcasters can simply stop the analogue signals. The question is: do they want to stop these? Will they fear loss of advertising if according to them digitization is not complete?


4. What more would you like the government to do to ensure 100% digitization?

Well, the government needs to do a variety of things.


First, through the various advertisements, tell consumers very truthfully and clearly that one needs a set-top box for every TV set. And there’s an entertainment tax to be paid per TV set. So in Delhi, a consumer needs to pay Rs 20 for one set-top box and Rs 60 for three, if he or she has three TV sets.


Second, consumers need to be made aware, that there is electricity consumption of around 18-20 watts per month which would roughly mean an extra spend of Rs 100. Also, they need to be aware that on these vanilla set-top boxes, they can’t get broadband or video on demand. There is no swap scheme and there is no portability currently.


Third, consumers must also know where are the service centres for these set-top boxes in case the boxes need to be repaired.


And broadcasters?

Broadcasters also need to do more. For instance, in the various serials and reality shows, they must get the stars and anchors to talk about the need to buy set-top boxes!


5. The last mile which is managed by the local cable operators is the key to the implementation of Digitization. Are all cable operators in the four metros about the implementation of the October 31 deadlline?

Let me reiterate here that all cable operators want digitization. We will be happy to see consumers getting a choice and they will only pay as they watch.


In fact had there been good availability of set-top boxes, we could have achieved things much faster. Right now, when a cable operator goes to the MSO for boxes on paying money, you don’t get the entire lot of boxes.


We will be happy to see total transparency. We would like to also see deals between broadcasters and operators signed not on a lumpsum basis but as per the set-top boxes.



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