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Pausing before phases III-IV of TV digitisation: Manish Tewari

Posted on Jan 24 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Jan 24 : After pushing through the first and second phases of digitising cable TV, there is a pause before the remaining two phases to accommodate the concerns of stakeholders, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said Friday.

Addressing the 5th CEOs Roundtable on Broadcast here, Tewari said his ministry has decided to pause to absorb lessons learned from the first two phases, in which cable television in the metros was digitised.

For phases three and four, the ministry wants to learn how to do things better, he said.

The minister acknowledged that in the first two phases, the consumers were told point blank to "get a set-top box or get the connection cut," and there was general unhappiness among all the stakeholders, including the broadcasters, the multi-system operators and the cable TV operators.

"If everyone is unhappy, then we should take a break and review... and sort out issues," the minister said.

He stressed that the government will not go ahead with phases three and four unless they are able to "convince the consumer that it is in his interest". He added that the ministry would have to run an advertisement campaign to convince the consumer. He also suggested that the consumer could be made a partner in the process, and feel part of the value chain.

Touching on the monopoly by some big multi-system operators (MSOs) in the TV industry, the minister said that the distribution of monopolies was of "extreme concern".

"When plurality of market space does not exist, surrogate ownership needs to be fixed so that three or four big players are not able to dominate the market," he said, adding that a capping system had been suggested on the MSOs.

He also said it is for the telecom regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to put in place a reliable regulatory framework for orderly growth of the broadcast industry.

Tewari remarked that the around 800 TV channels in the country were reflective of "fragmentation" of the market. The 415 news channels, he said, were dependent on advertisements for sustenance.

Touching on the discourse on TV news channels, he said it was "corrosive". "TV discourse has to change... the country can't have a development trajectory if the discourse is corrosive," the minister said, adding that the discourse was changing from "corrosive to anarchic".

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