To go digital or not? Kolkata cable operators in a fix

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 20, 2012 05:10 hrs

Kolkata, Dec 20 (IANS) Cable operators in the West Bengal capital are caught between the central government's mandate to go digital by Dec 27 and the Mamata Banerjee-led state government's fierce opposition to the move.

"What are we supposed to do? We are tied to the state but the information and broadcasting ministry has issued orders for complete digitisation by Dec 27," said Swapan Chowdhury, convener of the Cable Operators Digitalisation Committee of the Association of Cable Operators in the city.

"We are in a fix because of the political tussle," Chowdhury told IANS.

Following information and broadcasting ministry's directives (to city-based multi system operators or MSOs) to block out analogue cable signals by Dec 27, the state government opposed the decision citing law and order problems.

"The state government said sudden blackout would disrupt law and order. But the centre wants to stop analogue cable by Dec 27. They should have consulted the state government before issuing the directive," said Chowdhury.

According to the order, MSOs would lose their license if they failed to comply.

State Urban Development Minister Firad Hakim said the government would not accept any attempts by the central government to implement the order by force.

Sumit Ray of Galaxy Communications, a city-based operator that depends on the MSOs for its activities, said: "We will follow the MSOs' decision. It is up to them."

The MSOs on their part have decided to write to the central government.

"We have decided to write a letter to the ministry. At the moment we cannot disclose the contents of the letter. Let's see what happens," said Goutam Roy of Siti Cable networks, a leading MSO in the city.

The termination of analogue cable, which began Dec 16 - the first of three phases - has largely been incomplete.

"Only children's channels and English news channels have been blocked. Others are still on. How will they proceed with the second phase of switch over if the first has not been properly dealt with," said Chowdhury.

According to Chowdhury, the central government has no idea about the situation regarding set top boxes in the eastern metropolis.

"Although more than 50 percent of consumers have got set top boxes, there is still a long way to go. The centre should have kept this fact in mind," said Chowdhury.

Ever since the Trinamool Congress broke ranks with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in September, the Mamata Banerjee dispensation has adopted a tough stand on the cable TV digitisation issue.

Political observers feel confrontation on the matter is only a part of the larger battle between the Congress and the Trinamool.

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