Notwithstanding the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recent recommendation to bar State and Central governments from entering cable TV distribution business, officials of the State-run Arasu Cable TV Corporation are confident that the company will be able to continue its operations by securing appropriate licenses.
Officials here argue that it would be unjust for the TRAI to prevent States from entering into the cable TV business when the Centre is already active in the field through the Prasar Bharati. Though it is often argued that Prasar Bharat i is an independent statutory authority, not many are buying the argument as its operations are prone to be influenced by the ruling party at the Centre. A senior Arasu Cable TV official pointed out the Prasar Bharathi owns the DD Direct Plus, a DTH service. “How can States alone be prevented from venturing into the business,” he questioned. Another official said that the TRAI’s recommendation was not new. “The recommendation was first made in 2008. But despite this the Centre gave the CAS license to Arasu Cable TV the same year. Similarly we hope to the Centre will consider the ground realities and grant us the Digital Access System (DAS) license as we have to shift to digital transmission which is mandated by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry,” explained D Vivekanandan, Managing Director, Arasu Cable TV Corporation.
The TRAI has argued against entry of the States and Centre or ventures promoted by them into TV broadcasting as it could result in a monopoly. Besides, ruling parties might exploit their control to distort news, views and opinions.
But officials said ground realities are different in Tamil Nadu (TN). “Unlike in most other states, cable TV distribution business had always been a monopoly in TN which is common knowledge. Only after Arasu Cable started its operations, the monthly subscription came down to just Rs 70 making everyone happy,” said Vivekanandan.
However, cable operators while crediting Arasu Cable for ending the hostile environment in the cable TV business, said that the State must also permit other Mutli-System Operators (MSO) to function. “Arasu Cable must not be the only MSO. Just like telecom operators, customers must have choice in cable TV too. This will lead to a healthy competition and provide better services to the customers,” says P Sakilan, president, Tamizhaga Cable TV Operators General Welfare Association.