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Dec 27 deadline for digital switch

The Centre has given an ultimatum to multi-system operators in Calcutta to switch off analogue TV signals and complete the process of digitisation by December 27.

Which means Calcuttans who haven’t yet bought set-top boxes from cable operators or opted for direct-to-home services only have a fortnight to make the digital switch.

The information and broadcasting ministry summoned leading MSOs from Calcutta to the capital on Thursday to find out whether they were still beaming analogue signals.

The MSOs are doing so even a month and a half after the Centre’s revised deadline (October 31) for the digital switch passed. The first deadline was June 30.

“Five leading MSOs in Calcutta attended the meeting with officials of the I&B ministry at Shastri Bhavan in Delhi today. To a query from the officials, we admitted that we are still beaming analogue signals. The officials then asked us to switch off all analogue channels by December 27. We were made to sign a statement saying we will comply with the directive,” said an official of a city-based MSO who attended the meeting.

Representatives of the Broadcasting Engineering Consultants India Limited, which functions under the I&B ministry, has been regularly visiting city MSOs to keep a tab on the signals being sent to the cable operators.

Market sources said only about 20 lakh of the 42 lakh-odd TV homes in the Calcutta metropolitan area have gone digital.

The state government has been lobbying for the extension of the deadline citing high and varying prices of set-top boxes in different parts of the city and a fear of law-and-order breakdown if analogue signals are taken off air before every household gets a set-top box.

The MSOs, however, have welcomed Delhi’s tough stand.

“We were in a fix for long. There was no way we could have switched off the analogue signals in view of the the state government’s stand. We hope now we will able to do so as Delhi has put its foot down,” said the director of a Calcutta MSO.

“The ministry has suggested that we switch off one category of channels at a time to tell subscribers that we mean business. That way viewers will start missing their favourite programmes and be forced to buy set-top boxes,” said an MSO boss.