A 'must provide clause' is planned by India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry to ensure cable operators provide TV viewers in the four metro cities with the channels of their choice.
Rajiv Takru, additional secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, told a press conference that once digitisation of cable TV networks in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata is complete by 30 June 2012, it will be the consumers' right to demand any channel available in India.
"In the present case the analogue cables can carry a limited number of channels. Therefore, a selection is made by the local cable operator of which channels to provide and the consumer is left with no choice.
"After digitisation consumers will be able to pick and choose the channels that they want and through a set top box (STB), these channels will be provided to them and they would pay money only for the chosen channels," he said.
Takru also said the installation of STBs would enable accurate monitoring of TV viewing, making unreliable TV ratings points (TRP) a thing of the past for the programming and advertising sector.
"The TRP is a problem these days. You must have seen that channels sometimes telecast strange programmes for TRPs. World over subscriptions provide 70% of revenues of broadcasters and the remaining 30% through advertising. The trend was the opposite in India," said Takru.
Greater accuracy about the channels viewed through digital technology would provide both the government and channels with a revenue share owed to them, he added.
The government has, Takru said, launched a toll free helpline and a Facebook community, called Digital India MIB, to facilitate the exchange of information and address public concerns on the country's mandatory cable TV digitisation process – beginning with the conversion of the four metros by the end of June.
The Facebook page carries answers to some of the frequently asked questions and provides links to other relevant organisations, said the Ministry official.