Off late, there has been a huge confusion on the cable TV networks across the country, including Bengaluru, with implementation of set top box. Many cable TV subscribers are not able to understand the development in this direction. Here is an attempt to throw light on this ongoing issue.
In 1991, the Indian government started a series of economic reforms including the liberalisation of the broadcasting industry, opening it up to cable television. This led to an explosion in the Indian cable TV industry. The Cable TV Act was passed in 1995.
With the advent of technology, the cable service providers have offered broadband Internet access and voice services. The cable TV network was analogue and there many informal/unregistered cable networks exist. It was estimated in June 2013 that India has over 800+ TV channels, with Cable TV market size of Rs.34,000 crores. The major problems faced were/are,
- Number of subscribers cannot be accurately ascertained due to non-addressability and the lack of transparency in reporting of subscriber base
- Evasion of tax liability / payment to the government, causing huge loss to the exchequer.
- No account and accountability of people using Internet and voice services, resulting in non-traceability of criminals, terrorists and unlawful activities.
- Bundling of channels which were not required and charging customers for the same.
- Monopolies by cable operator in each area
Overall, the common people and the government were on the losing side with cable service providers having huge monetary benefits and no accountability.
Providing customer details mandatory
The idea of Access System with set top box and mandatory “customer details/information” was mooted in 2001. However, the idea was opposed by cable operators as their profitability came down. On the other hand, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) also took up the cause with same might. Matter went to TDSAT, CCI, and various High Courts across the country in 2003-04. Later, Delhi High Court ordered mandatory Access System in 2006 and similar orders later by the Supreme Court.
TRAI issued notification to implement fully digitalised Digital Addressable System (DAS) in phases across the country as below.
Phase I: Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai deadline of October 31st, 2012.
Phase II: 38 cities on 31st March 2013, including Bengaluru
Phase III: All the urban areas in India on September 30th, 2014
Phase IV: Complete India on December 31st, 2014
Again cable operators approached and have been approaching various courts to delay the implementation. Mumbai and Delhi succeeded in full DAS implementation. There is a delay in Kolkata and Chennai, but the implementation is in progress.
Cable scenario in Bangalore
Cable operators in Baangalore approached Karnataka High Court which had granted a stay which was later vacated. So, the deadline was extended to January 31st, 2014. Now, TRAI has issued a press release No. 2/2014, dated January 17th, 2014 and has clarified that there is no extension of the deadline in Bengaluru and the billing will happen in transparent and uniform manner from February 1st, 2014, subscribers paying only for the channels subscribed. TRAI has also requested all customers to submit customer application form (CAF) and demand bill containing breakup of charges for subscribed channels and taxes. In the event of failure to submit CAF, the cable services shall be disconnected.
The efforts of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are highly appreciated.
Now, the onus of doing a bit for the country is on cable subscribers to ensure that there is no evasion of Tax liability / payment by cable service providers, to help law enforcement authorities trace criminals, terrorists and to prevent unlawful activities and also reward ourselves by watching good quality channels by paying only for subscribed channels.
Government has passed laws, executives have pass orders and Judiciary has interpreted laws due to disputes. They all have done their part. Now, People also should participate in the process to make the ‘circle of democracy’ complete.
Let’s not always blame the government, officers and politicians. Let’s do our bit! Let’s submit CAF at the earliest, demand only subscribed channels and pay only for subscribed channels and not to yield to pressures.