The 16th meeting of the Task Force on implementation of phase lll and lV of digital addressable system (DAS) in cable TV network was held on July 26, 2016 under the chairpersonship of the Secretary (l&B). Opening the meeting for discussion, the Joint Secretary stressed the need to launch the publicity awareness campaign for Phase-lV of cable TV digitization. The ministry has developed two TV spots on Phase-lV digitization through DAVP. Details of the links for downloading of these spots will be soon made available.

Except for some DTH operators, the public awareness campaign by broadcasters and MSOs for Phase-lV is not much visible so far; in this regard the minister asked the members representing the broadcasters and MSOs to share their plans for publicity for Phase-lV with the task force. Further, giving an update on seeding in Phase-lV areas, seeding has picked up from 138 lakh STBs seeded till last meeting of the task force to 178 lakh STBs. Regarding publicity plans for digitization in Phase-lV areas, representatives of the broadcasters mentioned that they have drawn a plan which will be discussed in the board meeting and would be ready for implementation soon.

Representative of IMCL mentioned that for publicity campaign, a joint effort by all MSOs and HITS operators is needed to inform the LCOs and consumers about mandatory digitization by December 31, 2016. The Joint Secretary suggested that in addition to the spots developed by the ministry, all stakeholders can work together to develop a creative spot on digitization and share the same with the ministry. Doordarshan is also being asked to start broadcast of the TV spots on Phase-lV digitization on their transmitters in the country.

TRAI emphasized that broadcasters should start entering into interconnect agreements with MSOs and likewise MSOs should enter into interconnect agreements with LCOs for Phase-lV areas. Broadcasters should collect STB requirements from local cable operators in Phase-lV areas. IMCL mentioned that broadcasters have offered separate digital and analog rated in Phase-lV market and suggested that TRAI may issue an advisory/directive that there should be only analog rate till December 31, 2016.

Representative of TRAI mentioned that no such advisory which is outside the regulations can be issued. Out of 900 TV channels, about 600 channels are free- to-air (FTA) channels and about 2000 LCOs distribute these channels from their headends. In their case, state governments can suggest these LCOs to apply for MSO registration.

All MSOs who have any issue with broadcasters with regard to signing of interconnect agreements should write to TRAI. TRAI would review the situation in this regard from time to time.

Advisor (DAS) informed that 62 cases had been filed by some MSOs in various courts in the country for extension in the deadline of Phase-lll. Out of these 62 cases, 12 cases had been disposed of by respective courts and 3 cases had been withdrawn by the petitioners.

In view of the multiple cases filed in various courts, the ministry filed a petition in the Supreme Court for transfer of all the cases to the apex court or the High Court of Delhi with prayer for urgent hearing and quashing of the extension in deadline granted by some of the courts. The apex court has passed an order of transfer of all cases for extension in Phase-lll deadline filed in various courts and any new cases on similar prayer to the Delhi High Court for adjudication. In this process, 29 cases have so far been transferred by various courts to the Delhi High Court and 18 cases are still left to be transferred. Two cases are scheduled for hearing by the Delhi High Court on September 13, 2016.

Representatives of State Nodal Officers from the States of Himachal Pradesh, Telengana, U.P. Uttarakhand, M.P., Karnataka, Bihar, and J & K briefly mentioned the various measures undertaken by them to implement the last phase of digitization in their states. Most of them confirmed that monitoring committees have been set up in their states and they are holding regular meetings to monitor the progress.

Concluding the meeting, the chairperson mentioned that digitization is a process which cannot be stopped. The ministry has been proactive in the matter of dealing with all the court cases filed by some MSOs for extension of cut-off date for Phase-lll. Stakeholders should supplement the efforts made by the ministry to dispose of these cases. Notwithstanding the court cases on implementation in Phase-lll, as per the MIS system, 176 lakh STBs have been seeded so far in Phase-lV areas which is a good achievement. Broadcasters and MSOs should launch the publicity campaign on their channels on advantages of digitization and mandatory digitization in Phase-lV by December 31, 2016 so that seeding progress picks up with time.