The Seminar was inaugurated by Justice R.K. Agrawal, Judg e, Supreme Court, and Justice S.S. Saron, High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Senior officers from TRAI, MIB, DoT, and representatives of various services in the broadcasting sector and advocates attended the Seminar.
The inaugural session was followed by business session and panel discussions. Roop Sharma, President, COFI, spoke on the ‘Role of Cable Operators in the Digital Eco-system’.
The opening remarks were made by B.B. Srivastava, member TDSAT, while concluding remarks were made by Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Chairperson, TDSAT, who also unveiled the new website of TDSAT. Vote of thanks was delivered by advocate Munjal Bajpai.
A.K. Bhargava, Member, TDSAT, moderated the session which had several useful presentations: Majoj Kumar Pingua, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on ‘Paradigm for Reduction of Conflict & Orderly Growth of the Sector; Sunil K. Gupta, Pr. Advisor, TRAI on ‘Infrastructure Sharing in Broadcasting TV distribution Sector’, Tejvir Bhatia, Advocate on ‘Set Top Box Inter-Operatibility’, Vibhav Srivastava, Advocate on ‘Standard of QoS and Consumer Protection’, Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators Federatio n of India (COFI) on ‘Role of Cable Operators in digital eco-system’, Anil Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Siti Cable Network Ltd. on ‘Role of MSo in digital eco-system’, Amit Arora, Executive Vice President, India Cast on ‘Role of Broadcasters in digital eco-system.
In the Business Session, speakers representing all stakeholders spoke about the regulatory environment and role of different stakeholders in the digital eco-system.
Manoj Kumar Pingua Pingua gave a presentation on the achievements of Digitisation and explained how revenue to th e government as well as states has increased many times.
S K Gupta of TRAI explained various regulations framed for smooth implementation of Digital Addressable Systems. He said that to look afte r the interest of LCOs, TRAI will keep a record of all LCOs and ensure that MSOs sign proper interconnection agreements with them. Acknowledgement of agreements duly signed will be placed on TRAI website.
Tejvir Singh Bhatia gave a presentation on Interoperability of STBs, explaining various issues, why it has not been implemented as per regulations and various solutions of implementing it including technical as we ll as commercial interoperability.
distribution of STBs to consumers.
Vibhav Srivastava explained the rights o f consumers and regulations on quality of service and consumer protection. He emphasized on billing and payments and regulations for
Mrs Roop Sharma of COFI gave a presentation on issues faced by LCOs during digitization. She lamented that everyone including the ministry and TRAI neglected the LCOs leaving them to be exploited by large MSOs and pay TV broadcasters. She said that still there are many locations in Phase III & IV where MSOs have not provided a digital feed to LCOs as either they do not have an existing infrastructure in those areas or they are not interested because low subscriber base does not make it economically viable. She told the audience that many LCOs have lost their livelihood as broadcasters have switched off their analogue signals an d consumers are moving on to DTH services.
Ma ny cable operators from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana came to attend the Seminar apart from many judges an d lawyers from Chandigarh. During the question-answer (QA) Session, some valid & difficult questions were raised by delegates which the panelists could not answer.
An LCO from Punjab complained that although the government has permitted HITS operators to help LCOs get digital signals, out of the two existing operators, Jain HITS has closed down making its LCO affiliates to invest lakhs in headend and STBs. There is no one to compensate these LCOs, and also the only other MSO in Punjab, Fastway is not ready to connect them which means Rs 70 lakh investment has gone do wn the drain.
Earlier, Zee’s HITS project was also shut down una nnounced. He further said that while forcing the industry to go digital, the government had not prepared itself well to provide protection to thousands of small cable operators as promised by the former I&B Minister Mrs Ambika Soni in the Parliament.
Satinder Jain from Palwal raised the issue of MSOs not providing signed copy of their Interconnect Agreement. He complained that since their dealing is not transparent and LCOs are not well educated, they are raising dues against them and demand more subscription every now and then. Mr Gupta from TRAI replied that the regulator has planned to give a unique number to each LCO in the country and his operational record including his Interconnection Agreement will be available with TRAI and its acknowledgement will be uploaded on its website.
Ram Singh, a cable operator from Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, complained that his village remains cut-off from the nearest city for six months due to snow. He has to travel 200 km fo r all his business needs. No MSO is ready to provide him a digital feed and broadcasters have switched off their analogue feeds to his headend. He is on the verge of losing all his business. His subscribers are moving to DTH ser vice or installing DD FreeDish.
Harsh Kaushik, a lawyer from Delhi, wanted to know the exponential rise in DD FreeDish viewership in the last few months as shown by Mr Amit Arora of IndiaCast in his presentation. He was told that this was mainly due to some popular channels riding the platform in the last two e-auctions and increase in number of channels from 64 to 128 now. Switching off analogue in Phase III and IV areas has also forced many cable TV subscribers to shift to DD FreeDish.
The S eminar proved useful for the audience as they were also informed of all the latest rules & regulations and procedures for redressal of complaints. However, the low point was that cable operators (LCOs) went back disappointed as many of their questions regarding completion of digitization went unanswered.
The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Advocate Nasir Hussain.