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Expedite the process of issuing DAS licence to Arasu, Jayalalithaa tells Javadekar

MUMBAI: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has urged Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar to expedite the process of granting digital addressable system (DAS) licence to the state government-owned Arasu Cable TV Corporation, which was held up by the previous regime of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Jayalalithaa had raised the same demand in her memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom she had met on Tuesday. The denial of DAS licence to Arasu was one of the flashpoints between the UPA and AIADMK.

In her letter to Javadekar, the TN CM said that the Cable TV Network (Regulations) Act, 1995, and Rules allow a person or an association of individuals or a company registered under the Companies Act to get the DAS licence and TACTV is fully qualified under the Act to be issued the licence.

She also stated that Arasu has taken all necessary steps to commence operations in the digital mode in Chennai and has placed orders for the supply of set-top boxes (STBs), conditional access system (CAS), subscriber management system (SMS) and installation of a digital headend at a cost of about Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million).

“I would be grateful if you could kindly have this matter reviewed at the earliest and arrange to issue DAS licence to the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation without any further loss of time so that the people of Tamil Nadu, particularly the poor and the middle class, continue to avail of inexpensive and quality cable TV services,” Jayalalithaa said in her letter to the minister.

Arasu, she said, had applied to the I&B Ministry for DAS licence on 5 July 2012 for operating in the Chennai metro area, and on 23 November 2012, for operating in the rest of Tamil Nadu.

Even as Arasu’s application for licence is still pending, the earlier government had issued licences to nine other MSOs in Tamil Nadu, including those who applied after Arasu.

“I strongly suspect that the non-issuance of the DAS licence to TACTV by the previous UPA Government was only to facilitate particular private business interests, as other licences were issued at the same time,” Jayalalithaa wrote in an indirect reference to the Sun Group, which is owned by Kalanithi Maran, the nephew of DMK chief Karunanidhi.

The TN CM also mentioned that delegations of Tamil Nadu MPs repeatedly met the then I&B Minister and the former Prime Minister to request the expeditious issue of licences as digitisation has to be completed within a time frame.

Chennai was part of Phase I of digitisation. However, the failure to take a decision on giving DAS licence to Arasu threw the entire process out of gear. Analogue signals are still running in Chennai even as 41 cities have transitioned to digital cable in the first two phases.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had passed orders as early as 6 December 2012 that “the process of issue of licence to Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation may go on and the licence may also be issued”.

“I had also written to the then Prime Minister of India to direct the I&B Ministry to issue the licence to Arasu Cable. Despite all these efforts, the DAS licence is yet to be issued by the ministry,” she stated.

Jayalalithaa also said that the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) constituted by the I&B Ministry on 3 January 2013 to look into the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the licensing issue has still not submitted its final report.

The Tamil Nadu CM had revived the moribund Arasu Cable after assuming office in May 2011 to take on Sun Group-owned MSO SCV, which was a dominant player in the state. Arasu commenced its cable TV services in all the 31 districts of Tamil Nadu on 2 September 2011 barring Chennai, which was a CAS area at that point of time.

TACTV provides 100 channels to subscribers at a cost of Rs 70 per month. It provides signals to 24,000 local cable operators (LCOs) with a subscriber base of 65 lakh (6.5 million).