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Security clearance, MSO licence and Phase III digitisation
If you are a multi-system operator (MSO) and awaiting licence to operate in digital addressable system (DAS) areas, you are in for a grim situation. You are one out of 681 other aspirants wanting the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to grant you security clearance. And there is very little time for you to join the race for the third phase of digital addressable system (DAS). There is hardly six months to go for Phase III to convert from analogue to digital cable.
But there is hope coming your way. Months ago, the government had taken a decision to issue only permanent licences to MSOs for operating in DAS areas. But delay in security clearance has, perhaps, prompted the Ministry of Information and broadcasting (MIB) to revert to the system of offering provisional registration to MSOs.
TVP delves into the issue of security clearance, the granting of licence, and the need to speed up the whole process of movement from the MHA to the MIB so that all the MSOs can gear up for the third phase of DAS.
Is MIB worried that the delay in security clearance from the MHA will rob the MSOs of fair time to implement DAS in Phase III by 31 December 2015?
The MIB has so far received an estimated 850 applications for MSO registration, out of which 169 remain cleared. With the deadline of DAS in Phase III nearing, the MIB wants the MHA to speed up the security clearance process. The MHA has a genuine problem with handling a sudden bombardment of MSO applications.
Is this the only reason why the MIB has thought of falling back on the system of issuing provisional licences to MSOs for operating in DAS areas?
Yes, this appears to be the primary reason. The MIB has received a large number of MSO licence applications for DAS and all complete applications have been sent to the MHA. Security clearance is consuming more time than anticipated. Considering the paucity of time, issuing provisional registrations to MSOs would be a more rational step.
How will provisional registration help?
The MIB can fast track the process so that the delay in getting security clearance does not hold up the process of digitisation. However, the ministry has clarified that the provisional registration would not entitle the applicant to regular registration. The provisional registration will also stand cancelled in the event regular registration is refused.
Who will be disqualified to get provisional licence?
The applicant should not have been convicted by any court of law. Moreover, applicants who have been denied security clearance earlier will not be considered for provisional registration. For getting the MSO licence to operate in DAS, the parent or subsidiary company should not have been denied security clearance.
Why did the government do away with provisional registrations earlier?
The MIB decided to do away with provisional registration for DAS because many MSOs in Phases I and II had their licences scrapped after being denied security clearance by the MHA. These MSOs had invested in digital headends and set-top boxes (STBs). Hence, the MIB wanted to provide only permanent registration to MSOs in order to avoid uncertainty in the market.
What did the Narendra Modi-led BJP government want to achieve when it decided to grant only permanent licences to MSOs?
The new government wanted to streamline the process so that only serious players enter the market. An indication was that the MHA would process the security clearance of MSOs within 90 days. There was also learning for the MIB from Phases I and II of DAS. Many MSOs who were granted provisional licences did not operationalise them, which prompted the ministry to cancel their licences.
What is the status of new entrant Reliance Jio Media?
Reliance Jio Media had applied for an MSO licence to the MIB in January. The MSO’s application was sent to the MHA for security clearance on 2 February. The company is yet to receive the licence as it has still not got the MHA nod.
Has the MHA been active in denying security clearance?
The MHA has shocked many MSOs such as Digicable, Pune-based Intermedia Cable Communication (ICC), and Kal Cables by denying them security clearance. This has led to the MIB cancelling the licence of these MSOs. However, the MSOs have secured a stay on the MIB’s cancellation orders.
Is extension of DAS Phase III deadline a possibility in view of so many pending licences?
In the DAS Task Force meetings, the MIB has time and again reiterated its tough stance of not going back on the deadline in any way. The government’s decision to fast track the process by providing provisional licences is a means to avoid a situation where MSOs use the delay in grant of registration as an excuse to demand an extension of DAS. If anything, the move only signifies that the government is serious about the 31 December 2015 deadline.
What does Phase III of DAS entail?
The third phase of DAS is a herculean task as it covers 38.79 million television households across 630 districts and 7,709 urban areas spanning 29 states and five Union Territories.