Govt nod to policy to digitalise cable TV operations

Govt nod to policy to digitalise cable TV operations

New Delhi: Two years after TRAI submitted its recommendations, Government on Thursday gave its nod to a policy to digitalise cable TV operations throughout the country, including remote areas.

Under the Headend in the Sky or ‘HITS´ policy, the operator uplinks signals of TV channels of different broadcasters to their satellite, enabling cable operators to downlink these signals for further distribution to subscribers through their cable network in a digital form.

“The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the proposal of my ministry to issue policy guidelines for HITS operators, that provide for a framework within which the service providers will operate," information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said.

“Though the policy is not mandatory, it would enable existing cable network operators to switch to HITS technology and go digital to transmit TV signals to their subscribers," she said, adding that the capital investment and operational costs would come down drastically through it.

“The total direct and indirect foreign investment, including FDI, would be up to 74%, Soni informed, adding: “prior approval of the FIPB will be required if the FDI crossed 49%. The current FDI limit for direct to home (DTH) service is 49%.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had submitted its recommendations on various policy issues related to the HITS service to the ministry in October 2007.

“The policy would restrict cross-media holding of 20% of the total paid-up equity for various segments of broadcasting services," Soni said.

“These restrictions have been provided to avoid vertical integration and to promote competition," she said, adding that the HITS services would be allowed in both ‘C-band´ and ‘Ku-band´.

The HITS operators would not be permitted to provide signals directly to subscribers, though they can do so if they are also cable or multi-system operators, through the existing distribution network.

The minister said that remote areas which do not have conditional access system (CAS) would be covered by the HITS and the operators can uplink only from the Indian soil by installing encryption codes.

“HITS would not only help increase the penetration of cable market further into rural areas where it has been absent because of unviability, but also help in further reduction of prices of set top boxes and lead to consolidation of the cable market," Soni said.

“It would also help subscribers with a wide choice of digital channels, better picture quality and value-added services at an affordable price," she said.

“There would be no restriction on number of permissions and all those found eligible and fulfilling terms and conditions would be able to apply for licence," Soni said, adding that HITS would provide employment opportunities to the youth.