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Initial delay to India’s INR 40,000 crore TV digitisation plan

The digitisation of India's vast cable television network, now due to begin two months after originally planned, is predicted to require investment of up to INR 40,000 crore, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI).

The start of the plan will now see the four metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai digitised by 1 June 2012. This is a two month delay from the data agreed by the cabinet due to parliamentary process. A six month notice period must be given by the government following promulgation of the new decree.

"So we're having to change it from 31 March, which was the time the metros had to [do it], to 1 June. But it doesn't disturb the rest of the schedule," Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told PTI.

"It's generally a very big reform of the broadcasting industry," she added, reportedly saying the government expects to earn INR 30,000 each year following digitisation through subscriptions and other means.

In order to help facilitate the large amount of investment necessary to realise the ambitious digitisation plan, India's Department for Industrial Policy and Promotion is preparing a Cabinet note to increase the foreign direct investment (FDI) limits in the broadcasting industry.

The government is expected to enable foreign companies to own up to 74% of direct to home (DTH), cable TV, and head-end in the sky (HITS) companies, while retaining an FDI cap for news media at 26%.

The entire cable network in the country is set be digitised by the end of 2014, bringing with it more choice, quality and better value for customers, as well as and expected reduction in carriage costs charged to broadcasters to distribute their content. Currently, distribution and placement fees account for around 20% of a channel's operational cost in India.

Furthermore, although costly to install for the country's many analogue operators, a digital addressable cable system will help combat TV signal piracy – currently thought to cost the Indian broadcast industry US$1.4 billion a year, according to the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia.

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