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‘Stick to digital deadline’ urge India’s broadcasters

Broadcasters are calling on the government to stand firm on implementing the 30 June 2012 deadline for the first phase of cable television digitization in India, which will encompass the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

With some cable operators seeking court action to delay the mandatory switch off of analogue cable systems, and a parliamentary committee recently saying an extension should be granted to ensure a more plentiful supply of domestic set top boxes, many broadcasters are worried that the digitization process will suffer.

"It's been a 20 year wait for this and will be disappointing to see yet another extension. There is still a lot of work to be done - with consumers, with mindset changes - and I think we all have had some years to plan this. Let's accept the timelines and move forward," Ronnie Screwala, managing director, Disney UTV told The Times of India (TOI).

The Indian Government has set an ambitious timetable for the full digitization of India's vast cable TV network by the end of 2014, with phased introduction across urban areas prior to that. However, most of the broadcast sector feels digitization is a win-win for consumers, content makers, and television distributors.

"Timely implementation of digitization is very desirable and the benefits would accrue to all stakeholders along the value chain. Consumers will enjoy better quality, tremendous variety in content and subscription revenues will see actual growth," said Siddharth Jain, managing director for South Asia at Turner International.

"We strongly urge the government to not delay the already announced sunset date," he stressed.

Markand Adhikari, vice chairman and managing director, Sri Adhikari Brothers (SAB), told the Indian daily that it would be "a cruel blow to the industry" if the deadline for digitization was extended.

While NP Singh, chief operating officer, at Sony Entertainment Television India owners, Multi Screen Media (MSM), expressed concern at "hearing murmurs about a likely postponement of the sunset date," adding "any delay at this stage can derail the entire process".

"Given the current momentum, it is essential that all stakeholders come together at this stage to ensure [digitization's] timely and efficient implementation," Sai Kumar, chief executive, Network 18 Group told the TOI.

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