Kolkata operators plan phased blackout of channels

Caught between the state and the Centre over digitisation of television, the city’s Multi-System Operators (MSOs) and cable TV providers are now planning a phased withdrawal from the second week of November.

“We’re planning to switch off the channels in a phased manner so there is no blackout. The phased switch-over will also ensure that both citizens and MSOs get some time and the entire process of digitisation takes place in a hitch-free manner,” Director of Siti Cable Suresh Sethia told Deccan Herald.

When asked about the process of phased switch off, Sethia said: “First of all we will prioritise the channels according to their popularity and once this is done we will withdraw the least watched channels in the first phase and then according to the viewership the other channels will follow suit”.

“As there were apprehensions that there would be a complete blackout we’d already proposed a phased switch-over to the Union ministry of information and broadcasting when the deadline was approaching but there was no response from the ministry till date,” Joint Convener of the cable operators’ digitisation committee Mrinal Chatterjee said.

However, according to official sources the Union government is supposed to send teams to the four metros which were supposed to switch over to STB by October 31 besides collecting data from the MSOs and cable operators and then decide the future course of action.

According to state government sources, representatives of the MSO’s and cable TV operators had a meeting with State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim where the minister asked the cable operators to work out a package which will be acceptable to the city’s poorer sections.

“We’re working on it,” said Sudip Ghosh, Director of Manthan - another MSO operating in the city and the suburbs. While the Centre was adamant on the October 31 deadline, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had warned the Centre not to pressurise the state over the digitisation process and threatened to launch a statewide agitation if there was a complete blackout in the city.  “We won’t allow forceful installation of STBs in West Bengal. Those who have not yet opted for STBs will have to be given the option of watching channels in the existing analogue form,” she had said earlier.

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