Home >Industry >Media >Madras HC extends digitization deadline till 5 Nov in Chennai

Chennai: Cable TV operators and consumers in Chennai received a five-day respite at the last minute on Wednesday when the Madras high court extended the deadline for digitization of television signals in the southern city.

Their counterparts in Mumbai had no such luck. The Bombay high court declined to extend Wednesday’s deadline for the switch to a digital addressable system (DAS), meaning a TV blackout for households that haven’t installed set-top boxes (STBs) to receive digital signals.

In Chennai, heavy rain and strong winds kept people indoors on Wednesday, preventing any scramble for set-top boxes, as cyclone Nilam approached.

Schools and colleges have been shut in Tamil Nadu’s capital for the past two days because of incessant rains.

Chennai cable operators filed a case in the Madras high court for an extension of the 31 October deadline because of the non-availability of set-top boxes.

Madras high court judge Paul Vasantha Kumar, in an interim order on Wednesday, directed the information and broadcasting ministry to extend the digitization deadline in Chennai till 5 November, said J. Srinivasa Mohan, counsel for the cable operators.

“In a hearing today, the court has put on hold the digitization till the next hearing," said M.R. Srinivasan, general secretary of the Chennai Metro Cable TV Operators Association (CMCOA).

The group has 1,800 cable operators under its fold.

“The next hearing is on 5 November," Srinivasan said. “This comes as a relief to us."

Television is the largest component of the southern media and entertainment industry, accounting for about 58% of the 21,190 crore industry, according to a recent report by consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd and industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

In Mumbai, a division bench of the Bombay high court, comprising justices D.Y. Chandrachud and R.G. Ketkar, refused to grant any relief to cable TV operators.

“In June, you knew you have time till October. What have you done till today?" the judges, who were hearing a petition filed by Bhawani Rajesh Cable and Digitech, asked.

The earlier deadline of June had been extended until 31 October after the cable operators sought time to install set-top boxes, which have to be imported.

“A certain degree of inconvenience is inevitable in the enforcement of any deadline. The Union ministry has taken this decision to cut off cable network (in the absence of STBs) with a view to provide quality service to consumers," judge Chandrachud said.

The court, however, asked the Union government to consider giving some relief to viewers during the Diwali festival in November.

“We do not want people’s Diwali blacked out. Television these days has become the cheapest and basic source of entertainment for the average middle-class family. We are concerned about the consumers and not the operators," Chandrachud said.

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