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I&B min snubs Trai's digital TV deadline
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Terming the recent recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on digitalisation as "not viable", the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry is unhappy with the regulator. Sources said, Trai did not take I&B ministry into confidence before coming out with details of dates and deadlines for the digitalisation process.

The ministry is concerned by the timelines for digitalisation spelled in the Trai recommendations.

By putting March 31,2011 as the final date for the digitalisation of analogue cable across the four metros, the telecom regulator has left virtually no time for the I&B ministry to bring out the necessary notification. This will make the ministry look bad if it does not act on the recommendations, sources said.

According to the cable laws, the ministry has to give at least 180 days to the stakeholders for undertaking the cable digitalisation. Trai has given March 31, 2011 as the deadline for shifting to digital cable delivery platforms in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

"Like CAS, the I&B ministry needs to get the consent of the respective state governments before it can bring out the necessary notification. And for that, the ministry needs at least three to six months which is just not there in Trai's recommendations," a top government official said requesting anonymity.

Last week, even I&B minister Ambika Soni termed the regulator's recommendations as not viable for Prasar Bharati as according to the sanctioned plans, the complete digitalisation of Doordarshan and All India Radio will only be possible by 2017.

Sources said now the ministry is left with only two choices. One, to send back the recommendation to Trai to re-examine. Two, to take its own time before acting on it. Various stakeholders including broadcasters and cable associations are expected to meet the minister soon to discuss the recommendations.

Meanwhile, several broadcasters are expected to file their cases before the Telecom Disputes Settlement And Appellate Tribunal opposing the regulator's recent tariff order for DTH and all addressable platforms. The Trai tariff order says broadcaster have to enter into commercial arrangement with DTH operator at 35% of the tariff fixed for the non-CAS area. While this move reduces the loss of DTH operators, it also reduces the revenue for broadcasters from DTH platforms.
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