A meeting of the LCO sub-group constituted for implementation of digital addressable system (DAS) in cable TV network in the country in Phases-III and Phase-lV was held under, the chairpersonship of the joint secretary Ministry of information and broadcasting.

The sub-group was constituted to address the issues and concerns of LCOs in the country. Since the number of LCOs in the country is very large, the ministry had decided in the year 2014 to request state/UT governments to nominate one cable operator association from their state for the LCO sub-group. In this regard, nominations are still awaited from 16 states/UTs. LCOs form an important constituent of the cable industry and digitization of cable TV network cannot be completed without their involvement and active participation. Five cable TV operator associations nominated by state governments have been included in the task force constituted for implementation of Phase-lll and Phase-lV of cable TV digitization.

The members of associations were asked to freely express their views and suggestions, to help in digitization of the entire network. Various representatives from different states shared their concern over authorized officers for cable TV network in the state not being familiar with the cable rules. The ministry had conducted 12 regional workshops with them at various places during the last year. The ministry is planning more such workshops in the coming months in which, apart from state and district level nodal officers and MSOs, nominated cable operator associations may also be invited.

LCOs also mentioned that they feel a threat to their business from MSOs, broadcasters, and DTH operators.

It was also mentioned that transparency in the network was visible after digitization. Broadcasters are required to adhere to uplinking and downlinking guidelines. Also, broadcasting content is being continuously monitored for any violation of the program and advertisement codes. In a way, cable digitization has benefitted all LCOs.

LCOs from different states shared their concern over MSOs activating and deactivating STBs of subscribers without informing them. Channels are being removed from the channel bouquets of subscribers by MSOs due to their interconnection issues with broadcasters. Broadcasters were not providing content to an MSO formed by a group of LCOs; LCOs in the states were facing problems in renewal of their registration from the post offices. In this regard, it was suggested that LCOs may be granted registration for five to ten years. TRAI is already working on a proposal for online LCO registration by post offices.

Taxation on cable industry is a major issue and many representatives talked about it. It was suggested that taxation issues are likely to be resolved once GST (Goods and Services Tax Bill) comes into effect. Further issues regarding state taxation were advised to be taken up with state local authorities.

In case any LCO intends to become MSO, it should apply immediately for grant of registration to become digital-ready.

Already, voluntary digitization has been going on and LCOs should use their reach to motivate people to switch over to digital cable. LCO associations will be attending the regional workshops with the state and district level nodal officers and MSOs in order to be more aware about ongoing digitization. Meetings of the sub-group will also be held every month to understand the ground problems.