Come July 1 and it will mandatory for all viewers to get a digital set top box, and for operators to offer channels in a digital and addressable format. The move will spell a big relief for TV broadcasters as well as the government, both of whom have been losing out on revenues because of the massive under-reporting of subscribers by local cable operators.
According to a report in The Times of India, of the Rs 20,000 crore paid by viewers to cable operators, only Rs 4000 crore reaches pay TV channels. The government loses out on the taxes that the TV channels would have otherwise paid on the full income. With digitization, it will be possible to know the exact subscriber base.
The report further states that the TV distribution market in the country--comprising roughly 146 million households--is the third largest in the world. From the viewer's perspective, digitization is beneficial as he gets a wider choice of channels and a better viewing quality.
The government is in the process of putting together rules on the Digital Addressable System (DAS), as the digitization process is termed. Industry experts say a few of the provisions will be key to ensuring that cable operators don't work their way around the rules, and end up adhering to them only in letter and not spirit.
One of the provisions would be to ensure that digitized distributors are mandatorily equipped to carry the maximum of channels so that they do not cite capacity constraint as an excuse for not carrying certain channels. In addition, broadcasters have called for a ban on the carriage fee which is currently being charged by cable operators to carry the channel and place it on a frequency that can be watched by the maximum number of viewers.