A Parliamentary panel has asked the information and broadcasting ministry to consider the issue of long-term financial support to Indian manufacturers of set-top boxes (STBs) to help them face competition from Chinese companies.

The digitization of cable TV sector was initiated by the government to phase out analog TV distribution system for offering varied choice to viewers and a better-quality viewing.

As lakhs of STBs were seeded under this drive in the first three phases, including all major cities, it was realized that a majority of STBs were imported.

In a report tabled in Parliament, the Standing Committee on Information Technology noted that as per information given by Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA), 19 companies are indigenously manufacturing STBs and they have sufficient capacity to meet the demand of cable TV digitization.

CEAMA has also informed that they can even scale up the capacity if there is demand, but for that there is a need of government support in creating a level playing field for domestic STB manufacturers to compete with the Chinese imported STBs.

Chinese lenders are extending easy long-term credit to Indian importers buying STBs manufactured there, but it was not available to indigenous producers in the Indian banking system. While the information and broadcasting ministry has taken some steps like reducing VAT to support domestic manufacturers, the issue of long-term financial support to domestic manufacturers to negate easy procurement of China-made STBs needs to be looked into and addressed suitably.

Digitization of the cable TV sector has already been achieved in almost all major cities and a majority of other urban areas. The government aims to cover all remaining areas by the end of December 2016.