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MIB to meet SIDBI on long-term financing for MSOs

MUMBAI: Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) joint secretary of broadcasting and Task Force chairperson JS Mathur has informed multi-system operators (MSOs) that the ministry is planning a meeting with SIDBI on the demand of long-term financing for procuring set-top boxes (STBs) from domestic manufacturers.

SIDBI is a non-independent financial institution aimed to aid in the growth and development of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSME) in India.

During the fifth meeting of the DAS Task Force on 21 January, Mathur also advised the MSOs to have a meeting with indigenous STB manufacturers to sort out the issues.

He asked them to begin discussions with domestic STB manufacturers for procurement of STBs well in time, to be able to meet the deadlines for Phases III and IV.

Mathur’s advice to the MSOs came after CEAMA representative on the Task Force stated that they had called a meeting with MSOs in December 2014 but the response was not good. None of the major MSOs attended this meeting.

He mentioned that indigenous STB manufacturers were ready to discuss all issues with MSOs anywhere and anytime.

During the earlier Task Force meeting, the MSOs had emphasised that the domestic manufacturers needed to provide vendor financing in line with foreign STB manufacturers.

Regarding procurement plans and stock of STBs for requirements of Phase III, MSOs mentioned that they had limited inventory of STBs and procurement of STBs was taking place as per earlier orders. No new orders have been placed by the national MSOs either with foreign suppliers or with indigenous STB companies.

MSOs stated that they were making arrangements for finances to procure STBs for Phase III. They also said that the position with regard to availability of funds would be clear by the end of February in the current financial year.

Subscription rates being lower in Phases III and IV, MSOs want channel pricing to be decided

MSOs said that subscription revenue from Phase III and IV areas was expected to be 20–30 per cent, compared to 70–80 per cent from Phase I and II areas.

Hence, channel pricing in Phase I and II areas needs to be decided for areas under Phase III and IV so that the MSOs can plan operation in these areas.

TRAI wants broadcasters to stitch content deals with MSOs without waiting for cut-off date 

GS Kesarwani, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) representative on the Task Force committee, said that broadcasters should enter into agreements with MSOs for distribution of content without waiting for the cut-off date.

The MSOs had raised the issue of difficulty of signing agreements with broadcasters.

Responding to the concerns of MSOs, Kesarwani stated that broadcasters could not deny signal to MSOs once they were DAS compliant. He also suggested MSOs make a formal written request to the broadcasters for the signal as per the regulations.

MIB on nominations and data

During the meeting, Mathur said that the ministry had asked state governments and union territories for some nominations and data.

Presenting the status on nominations and data, MIB advisor (DAS) Yogendra Pal informed that nodal officers, both at state and district levels, were asked from state/UT governments but the same had been received from about 15 states/UTs.

Pal also informed that district-wise data of urban areas needed to be covered in Phase III, along with number of households from all states and UTs. However, such data has been received only from Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh.

On the nomination of one LCO association from each state and UT, Pal said that nomination has been received only from Gujarat. Nomination of an LCO association to the Task Force is awaited from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

Mathur directed that copies of the letters written to state governments in this regard be provided to the nodal officers present in the meeting today to expedite the pending nominations/data.

The representative of consumer forum stated that computerised billing was not happening in Phase I and ll areas. He added that CAF forms should be filled before installation of an STB.

For publicising the extension of date for applying for MSO registration for operation in Phase III areas, it was suggested that broadcasters run a scroll on their channels. It was also suggested that MSOs download video spot made by the MIB and play on their local channels.

MSO representatives were told to share the data of existing MSOs operating in analogue regime with the ministry. The representative of ASSOCHAM mentioned apprising the broadcasters about the same.

Regarding publicity campaign, MIB joint secretary R Jaya mentioned that all stakeholders must contribute to spreading awareness about the ongoing digitisation drive in the country. She suggested MSOs run audio visual ads on their local channels. She also suggested spreading awareness through handbills or printed ads on monthly bills issued by LCOs to the consumers. She called upon broadcasters to plan publicity campaign on their channels.

Regarding workshops for public awareness campaign, it was agreed that FICCl and CII and ASSOCHAM would come out with a plan.