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Indian Government extends deadline for digital cable TV

The Indian Government has postponed by four months the switchover from analogue to digital cable TV in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, after only 20% of cable homes had installed the necessary set top boxes, reports RapidTVNews.

Announcing the extension just ten days before the 30 June deadline was due to take effect, the first phase of mandatory digitisation of India’s cable TV network will now be required by 31 October 2012.

“The assessment of the ground realities compels the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to set a new deadline. It is, however, imperative that the modified target deadline is set with strict benchmarks to ensure that no complacency sets-in in the system and the new target date is achieved collectively by all the stakeholders,” the ministry statement said.

Blame was placed upon the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which issued its regulations on tariffs and interconnection three months later than expected, on 30 April 2012. Negotiations between broadcasters and cable operators over carriage fees were therefore adversely affected, said the ministry, and little time had been afforded to consumers to become aware of costs or install digital set top boxes.

If the deadline had not been extended, it was anticipated television screens would have gone blank in some nine million households, with many local cable operators fearing public disorder as a result.

Broadcasters, however, are unhappy with the digital delay. The government says it will now monitor the process of digitization over the coming four months, and provide warnings to those falling short of their written commitments.