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Saturday, 01 July 2017 12:54

GST finally ushered into the country

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When the clock struck 12 on 30th June 2017 midnight, India entered an era of financial revolution introducing a single tax regime called the ‘Goods and Services Tax’. The event was celebrated in the Parliament with all the fanfare with the President, Sh Pranab Mukherjee ringing the bell to usher in the historic economic reform in the country.

The broadcast Industry should be happy as consolidated GST on cable TV and DTH services has been kept at 18 %. Also GST on STB which was 28%, was reduced to 18% just before the final implementation. However, service providers are apprehensive of local bodies levying some additional taxes to make the service costly for the consumers. We have to wait and watch what happens next, and still a great amount of confusion persists about the method of implementation and reporting. On paper, things do appear bright. 

The number of registered MSOs for digital cable has gone up to 1421 with the addition of 37 more MSOs in the last month. Although the number is too less compared to 6000 odd headends existing in analogue regime, yet the conditions are better as all of them except ARASU in Tamil Nadu have been registered for ten years. As per our sources, there are many areas in the country still enjoying analogue signals in spite of the government declaring a total switch off; this is because the digital infrastructure does not exist in these areas or in many cases, it is not profitable to operate a digital headend, with subscriber number very low. The MIB has once again directed the state governments to take strict action against any operator still offering analogue signal to subscribers. 

The government has also made Aadhar card mandatory for many services including linking it with Pan Card for IT returns and in bank accounts.  

The TRAI chairman, RS Sharma continues to bring reforms in the regulatory system using new technologies. Last month, TRAI introduced three apps for consumers, one for measuring broadband speed, second for DND services and third for mobile call quality. Even the TRAI portal has been given a fresh look with more user friendly features. 

Last month, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT had invited stakeholders in the industry to understand the status of Digitisation of Cable TV and also to know their views on introducing interoperable STBs in DTH as well as Cable TV services. Mrs Roop Sharma led a team of Cable Operators who presented before the Committee the ground situation of incomplete digitisation and also suggested steps to speed up the progress. 

With the spread of Digitisation, operators are now focusing on monetisation of the digital networks, using value additions like gaming, VoD, e-commerce, etc. Mr Nishith Shah of 18th Parallel speaks to us on gaming services in this issue. 

Because of massive economic reforms in the last six months, first Demonetisation and then GST, business in the industry is facing a slowdown. It may take a few more months to get used to the new procedures and achieve normalcy. However, in the long run these steps may prove very useful for overall benefit of the industry.

 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma

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