Scatmag.com

May 2017

CENTRE BUCKLES - ARASU GETS DAS LICENCE


On April 18, and announcement caught the entire industry by surprise. The Centre (I&B ministry) had buckled, and issued a provisional DAS license to Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd. The license was dated a day earlier.

The DAS license to the Tamil Nadu State Government entity completely destroyed the TRAI's emphatic recommendation that government bodies (besides Prasar Bharti) should not be permitted into broadcasting. The centre had stood its ground since July 2012, refusing to grant Arasu a Cable TV license.


REPEATED REJECTION BY TRAI

On 30 November 2012, Mr Uday Kumar Varma - Secretary MIB had written to the TRAI to reconsider its stand and whether governments, govt owned companies and state departments may be "allowed to enter into the business of broadcasting and or distribution of TV channels."

On 28 December 2012, the TRAI replied, emphatically (underlining the word 'not') that "... entities should not be allowed to enter in to the business of broadcasting and or distribution of TV channels."

The TRAI letter also added that the TRAI's recommendations were under Section 11(1)(a) of the TRAI Act.



TRAI Has Strongly Opposed Issue Of Such License


POLITICISATION OF TV

This decision by the MIB, contrary to the TRAI's repeated and emphatic recommendations, will open the floodgates for many state Govts to get into broadcasting. Such moves will always have covert or even overt politically motivated agendas, as we have seen with Arasu earlier.

The implications are actually more farreaching than just Cable TV. They are applicable to all forms of broadcasting, including Satellite TV channels.


Politically Biased Networks & Sat Channels Will Operate With Tax-Payer's Funds


State operated media will see politically biased satellite channels operated with the tax payer's funds.




I&B MINISTRY VIEWS

While there is no official communication from the I&B ministry explaining why Arasu has been issued this provisional license, there are clauses in the provisional license which provide pointers to the MIB's thinking:

CLAUSE 2 of the provisional DAS license to Aarasu states that the license is provisional, and subject to the Centre taking a final decision on the recommendation of the TRAI, that no government owned body should be permitted in the field of running or distributing television channels.

CLAUSE 3 states "... since Hon'ble Madras High court did not allow any disconnection of analogue signals of Arasu cable till a decision on their MSO application, therefore you are now given time of 3 months to switch over to DAS completely. After the stipulated period of three months, no analogue signal shall be carried by you, failing which the provisional registration is likely to be suspended/revoked."

CLAUSE 7 states: "This permission supersedes-the earlier permission granted to you vide letter no. 9/32/2007-BP&L dated 2nd April, 2008 to operate in CAS areas of Chennai Metropolitan."

Hence this DAS provisional license is linked to Arasu's earlier CAS license.


ONLY FOR TAMIL NADU

Unlikely any other DAS MSO license, the Arasu license is restricted for operations within Tamil Nadu state only.

CLAUSE-6 states "Circular No.2r1oBt201g- DAS dated 27.01.2017 permitted vide which MSOs are to operation in any part of the country will not be applicable in your case."



CENTRE STATE CONFLICT

Cable TV licencing, like several other matters such as law and order are declared by the Centre but implementation is dependent on the local State Government. The Centre is constrained if the local government refuses to follow the policy spelt out by the Centre. Of course, the consequences of a single state rebelling, affect all other states and consumers throughout India. This has been clearly apparent in the ARASU case where the State Government refused to shut down Analog Cable TV signals by its state run ARASU Corporation, unless it was granted a DAS licence contrary to the TRAI's recommendations.

After a conflict that began in July 2012, the Centre seems to have finally buckled on 17th April 2017.


Arasu Must Install 7 Million STBs in 3 Months



DEADLINE

State owned & operated Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation Ltd. provides 90 to 100 channels to its 7.05 million subscribers at a government subsidised price of ` 70 per month. This has effectively killed private sector Cable TV networks in Tamil Nadu. As a result, 26,246 Local Cable Operators (LCOs) have had no other option but to take feeds from 82 Arasu head-ends across the state.

Arasu has connected 3.40 lakh subscribers in the Chennai metro area through 820 LCOs.

So far, Arasu invested ` 20.72 crore in a Digital Headend, STBs, CAS, SMS etc.

It has procured only an initial lot of 50,000 STBs. Of these, only 28,752 STBs have been distributed to 383 LCOs.

Arasu has a challenging task ahead of it if it is to provided digital STBs to atleast 7 million subscribers in 3 months, if the MIB adheres to the terms in its DAS license.

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