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Parliamentary approval for India’s cable digitisation bill

India’s upper house of parliament, Rajya Sabha - or Council of States - passed the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill on 19 December, following its approval last week by the lower house, Lok Sabha.

The Bill, which seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated in October, will now go to the President for her assent before it is notified as an Act.

According to the government drafted Bill, the cable TV digitisation process will begin next year with the metros to be completed by June 2012. Then, cities with a population of one million are to be digitised by 31 March 2013. Remaining urban areas are set to follow by 30 September 2014, while the entire country’s cable network is due to be digitised by 31 December 2014.

Responding to fears that cable operators would be 'put out of business', Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told the house that although there would be some teething difficulties, cable operators would gain from digitisation in the long term.

Between INR 200,000 and INR 300,000 will be required by cable operators to digitise their networks thanks to an enabling provision, according to Soni.

The Bill will also give an impetus to the headend-in-the-sky programme (HITS) which will help cable operators, she said, adding that digitisation will provide a true picture of broadcasters’ subscriber base and thus reduce their dependence on advertising.

Currently, cable TV piracy is rife in India, and was thought to account for US$1.4 billion in lost revenues in 2010, according to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia.

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