Senior Official from the I&B Ministry talked about the achievements of Digitisation which mainly comprised of huge tax haul for the Centre as well as state governments. The official agreed that many areas in Phase III & IV did not have a digital signal on Cable but could not give any solution to the LCOs or subscribers where analogue cable was switched off. One LCO from the interior of Himachal Pradesh said that he has lost all his business because broadcasters have switched off the analogue signals.
Another LCO from Punjab said that his investments of Rs 70 lakh in a HITS headend and STBs have gone waste as Jain HITS has closed down its business. The government has made no policy to compensate cable operators in such conditions. He said that HITS was not working in the present circumstances as broadcasters create hurdles in providing content. Earlier, Zee HITS had also closed. Now only NeXT Digital of Hindujas is operating but LCOs are losing faith in HITS.
Another LCO raised the issue that MSOs were not giving signed copy of the Interconnection Agreement to LCOs and exploiting them every now and then demanding increased subscriptions. He told that there is no security of the business, and since all regulations are challenged in the courts, even regulator is unable to help.
TRAI representative said that they plan to issue a unique number to each LCO and keep a track of his Interconnection Agreements to ensure he gets a fair deal.
There are more issues pending in Digitisation than the benefits for the stakeholders. The government will have to work very hard to ensure benefits of Digitisation reach the consumers and small stakeholders as envisaged in the law.
GST has been cleared, and hopefully, will be implemented from July 1. Cable and DTH services will attract 18% tax and STBs and other digital equipment will be taxed at 28%. The industry is worried about the negative impact of GST on the business as neither ‘Make in India’ will succeed nor the dream of a ‘Digital India’ will be fulfilled.
TRAI also celebrated its completion of 20 years on 3rd May. There was a Seminar held to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, the broadcasting industry has not benefitted so much after TRAI took up its regulations on 1st January 2004.