There was only partial blackout in Mumbai, as most cable operators will continue to provide the existing service via the analogue signal till December 31
Shiv Sena-backed cable operators in Mumbai continued to be defiant vis-a-vis the digitisation of TV networks on Thursday – the first day of the central-government mandated switchover from the earlier analogue signal system. There was no total blackout of the TV sets of viewers who had still not got a digital Set Top Boxes (STB) and Cable Operator’s Union leader Anil Parab of the Shiv Sena announced that most cable operators in the city had decided to continue TV transmission through the analogue signal till Dec 31.
“Around 30 percent of the city’s cable households have not yet managed to switch over to STBs. But, they cannot be deprived of the only form of cheap entertainment. Hence, it has been decided that most cable operators will continue to provide the existing service via the analogue signal till December 31,” said Parab.
With the analogue cable services continuing in the city, there have been no public protests over digitisation – postponed several times in the past few years in Mumbai.
The Bombay High Court Wednesday refused to extend the November 1 digitisation deadline stating that it did not find any illegality in the central government’s stand. It was hearing a petition filed by two cable operators’ Bhavani Rajesh Cable and Digitech. But Parab-led cable operators’ seem defiant. “The Bombay High Court rejected the pleas of only two cable operators. There are around 3,000 cable operators in the city. So, they will continue to provide the cable connection to their subscribers through the analog signal till they are in a position to make alternate arrangements,” he said.
According to Parab, the crucial decision was taken in the afternoon in a meeting with all the big and small cable operators of the city which had a huge number of cable viewing subscribers, but the actual number nobody was willing to disclose. His stance reflected that of Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray’s views on the issue. Thackeray said earlier this week that contrary to the government claim of 100 percent digitisation being complete Mumbai, only 70 percent of households in city of nearly 18 million had acquired a STB. The rest were not able to afford it owing to the festival season and due to the high inflation. He alleged that the central government had a ulterior motive in forcing the digitisation and demanded that the digitisation deadline be extended till January 2013. “People are already suffering due to high fuel prices and the increase in the prices of LPG cylinders, many poor families will be unable to afford it. During Diwali, we won’t allow people to be deprived from watching television,” Thackeray said.
Cable operators across Mumbai apprehend that it might take around three months to install STBs at those households who were still to get one. Rupesh Patel, a cable operator based in Borivali in north Mumbai, said: “There are many people who try to reason with us. They say they cannot afford to pay the cost for a STB at this point in time and beg us to extend the deadline.”
A lower-middle class tenement dweller in Malad East, Santosh M, said that his family had been saving for a STB since the past three months. “However, with the recent steep hike in LPG, bus and train fares, our budgets went haywire, what with the festival season starting from Ganeshotsav onwards. Now, we may be able to afford the STB only by the year-end or only kill time watching CDs at home,” said Santosh, who works in a garment store.