It’s official. Analogue cable television signals will go off air for good across Calcutta on February 1 with the state government’s blessings and a special box-and-bouquet package for below-poverty-line subscribers, just as Mamata Banerjee had demanded.
“The BPL package, which Mamata had long wanted us to come up with, is hopefully the last piece in the digitisation jigsaw,” said the director of one of Calcutta’s leading cable networks.
Those eligible for the package will end up paying less for digital feed than they were shelling out for analogue signals.
The scheme, finalised on Monday after a series of meetings among the MSOs, entails a one-time payment of Rs 450 for a set-top box and a monthly fee of Rs 75 plus taxes for a bouquet of 75 channels.
The discounted box price is at least Rs 350 less than what regular subscribers have paid for theirs. The cost of the special package too is half of the lowest-priced bouquet of channels.
“We came up with the package today and went straight to urban development minister Firhad Hakim, who has been corresponding with us on this. He seemed happy with the package and asked us to go ahead with the plan to switch to digital signals completely from February 1,” said Sudip Ghosh, the director of MSO Manthan Broadband Services.
Subscribers would be required to fill in a form and show their BPL cards as part of a verification procedure. The special package would be valid for three months. “Some of the channels in the package might change after that,” said Ghosh of Manthan.
Suresh Sethia of Siti Cable said the package would include “select” Bengali and Hindi entertainment and news channels along with kids’ entertainment and devotional channels. DD Sports would be the only sports channel, sources said.
A subscriber who buys a “BPL box” for Rs 450 won’t be allowed to opt for a higher priced package. To do that, he or she would need to buy a box at the normal retail price.
Hakim had apparently been briefed about the package before it was finalised and so knew what to expect.
The government had feared a law-and-order problem if analogue signals were switched off but there has been no protest so far despite only a handful of channels remaining on the analogue beam of most city MSOs.