Madras HC allowed them to supply analogue signals as the MIB did not give the state run ARASU permission to operate a DAS headend, while it was waiting to take a decision on TRAI’s recommendations on entry of ‘Certain Entities’ in to the business of Broadcasting. Sumangali Cable owned by the SUN Group had already established its digital headend in 2003 for CAS and was offering tough competition to the operators who were connected with ARASU on analogue cable. Establishing own digital headend by cable operator appeared tough with heavy investments, lack of technical information and problem of importing STBs. ARASU was given a provisional permission only this year when DAS implementation in rest of the country was complete.
When former Chief Minister, Late J Jayalalitha took over the state, it wanted to use ARASU, established by the previous government but then defunct, to provide livelihood to thousands of cable operators with cheapest of services for the consumers to uplift her popularity. It was her pet project and she had vigorously pushed for digital licence for ARASU from 2011-2016. She had submitted several memorandums to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his successor Narendra Modi on the issue during her meetings with them.
However, ARASU always remained a bone of contention due to intense politics and business games played by the big players in the state. Losers were the cable operators.
ARASU was given three months time to start operation. Finally, after four months the state government has started distributing free Set Top Boxes (STB) to subscribers from 01 September starting with Chennai city. Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami launched the service through Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation and also inaugurated MPEG-4 upgraded control room for digital signal transmission.
Nearly 70 lakh subscribers in Arasu cable network will have access to nearly 180 channels in digital mode. There will be four packages with monthly subscription varying between ₹125 and ₹275 with option of both pay and free channels, said a government release. For the first time a State government-run cable TV was given this licence to deliver digital cable channels at low cost. Arasu TV, which began operations in October 2007, offers 90-100 channels through local cable operators across the State. From 4.94 lakh subscribers in September 2011, the number has increased to 70.52 lakh. Cable operators can charge a one time activation fee of ₹200 from customers, the release said.
The Arasu Cable TV subscribers would now be able to view 180 channels at just Rs 125, way cheaper when compared to the private Direct-to-Home (DTH) service providers who charge at least 60 to 80 per cent more for same number of channels.
During the period of uncertainity, many cable operators, their associations and others had started DAS operations taking permission from the Ministry. However, now they find it difficult to survive as the state government has made it mandatory for operators to get connected with ARASU. State government is using its machinery to ensure this is being followed. Krishnagiri District Collector made a publication on 28-07-17 in Daily Thanthi newspaper stating that “IF ANYPRIVATE LICENSE HOLDER SELL SET TOP BOX TO THEIR CUSTOMER AGAINST ARASU CABLE THEIR LICENSE WILL BE CANCELED.” This clearly depicts the bias of the nodal officer towards Arasu Cable and his statement is against the Indian Constitution & Business Rules too.
Cable Operators all over the state are also protesting against free distribution of STBs which will make their customers leave them and join ARASU. D.G.V.P.Sekar, Chief Coordinator FCATN, Federation of cable operators has also written to the chief minister that Nodal Officers are not supposed to support any company against the Law of the land.