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Delhi cable operators to black out TVs against digitisation

New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) Cable TV operators here Friday said they would observe a 48-hour blackout to protest the March 31 digitisation deadline and an "unfair" revenue-sharing model under the digital addressable system (DAS).

The blackout will begin Friday and will last for 48 hours till March 31. The operators are demanding extension of the deadline, a higher revenue share and lower tariffs for consumers.

"We are not against digitisation. We fully support the decision. Our protest is against the package being offered by the multi-system operator (MSO). They are offering us just a 33 percent share, which is unfair and unacceptable," said Ashok Pandit, president, Trans-Yamuna Cable TV Operators Association.

Pandit, who represents cable operators from east Delhi areas, said local cable operators were not taken into confidence when the decision to go digital was taken. "The MSOs took few hand-picked local operators to the government to claim they had taken all of us into confidence, following which this decision was made," he told IANS.

He said consumers paying just Rs.100 to Rs.150 under the analogue system would now have to pay three or four times more than that in addition to buying a digital set-top box.

Sanjay Sahni, a cable operator from west Delhi's Rajouri Garden said: "The decision has been imposed on us. The aim of these companies is to monopolise the cable industry."

"We did all the ground work in the 1980s and 1990s when these companies were not interested in this sector. Now that we made it a multi-crore industry, these companies are taking the major revenue share," he told IANS.

Vineet Kumar, general secretary of West Delhi Cable Operators Association, said that the government should take into account that 75 percent of the population in the country is still on the analog systems. "The government has taken the rights of thousands to favour these few MOSs," he said.

"The cable operators will start their protest from Jantar Mantar Friday. From 9 p.m., all operators in Delhi will black out TV sets in the capital," Kumar added.

The central government has set a March 31 deadline for the second phase of digitisation, which targets a switchover to digital cable television technology in 38 cities across the country.

The first phase was limited to the four metros: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The policy is to put the entire country on the digital route by 2014-end.

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