KOLKATA: Since the time the process of cable TV digitisation started, if any faction has been really troubled, it’s the local cable operators (LCOs). To make their future secure, they have raised their voice time and again.
In an attempt to form a united front and take up the common issues troubling them, around 8,000 Kolkata LCOs, who claim that mandatory digitisation has adversely affected their livelihood, are requesting the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Information Technology for 10-year license from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).
One of the reasons that worry the LCOs the most is that they are registered with the post office and get only a year’s license at a time.
“But the Multi System Operators (MSOs) get a 10-year license from the MIB,” says Cable & Broadband Operators Welfare Association (CBOWA) general secretary Swapan Chowdhury, who thinks that the present condition of licensing is unfair and is making LCOs uncertain about their future.
“We have requested the authority to recommend the licensing provisions made in the ‘Recommendations on Restructuring of Cable TV Services’ dated 25 July, 2008 to be implemented for LCOs and MSOs,” he adds.
The body has also appealed to Member of Parliament and Member of Parliamentary Standing Committee of IT, Tapas Paul to review the arbitrary rule and act of Digital Addressable System (DAS) in order to protect the cable operator’s fundamental rights of livelihood.
Chowdhury thinks that the current revenue sharing model between the MSOs and LCOs is not viable for the cable operators and in due course of time it may even compel the LCOs to quit the business. In the current scenario, as defined by the regulator, the ratio of revenue sharing between MSOs and LCOs is 55:45 for free-to-air (FTA) channels and 65:35 for the pay channels. “The business model should be reconsidered to protect the livelihood of lakhs of people,” says Chowdhury and adds that CBOWA believes that the model is discriminatory and thus they have put in a request for that as well.
Another thing that is bothering the LCOs is that the MSOs are not executing the terms in the agreement even though DAS has been implemented since February this year. CBOWA has also put in a request about this so that these issues can be addressed in the winter session.
A cable TV analyst, Namit Dave thinks that the digitisation process is a massive exercise and requires all stakeholders - broadcasters, MSO and LCOs to work in collaboration. “It would be difficult to execute the herculean task if any of these parties don’t cooperate,” he concludes.