Mumbai cable operators to move Supreme Court

Indo Asian News Service

Mumbai, Nov 2 (IANS) The Mumbai Cable Operators Association (MCOA) will move the Supreme Court with its plea to extend the cable television digitisation deadline to Dec 31, an official said here Friday.

Hundreds of cable operators Friday protested outside the collector's office pressing for their demand to extend the deadline. The Bombay High Court had Wednesday rejected the petition filed by two cable operators for the extension of the deadline.

Head of MCOA and Shiv Sena legislator Anil Parab said: "Broadcasters have switched off signals due to which six lakh homes have gone black," he said adding that most of them cannot afford the Set Top Boxes (STB) at this point.

On Thursday, the first day of the central-government mandated switch-over from the earlier analogue signal system, Shiv Sena-backed cable operators in Mumbai continued to be defiant vis-a-vis the digitisation.

"Around 30 percent of the city's cable households have not yet managed to switch over to set top boxes. 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 Dec 31," he had said.

"The Bombay High Court rejected the pleas of only two cable operators. There are around 3,000 cable operators in the city. They will continue to provide the cable connection to their subscribers through the analogue signal till they are in a position to make alternate arrangements," Parab said.

Parab's 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 STBs. 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 deadline be extended till January 2013.

Cable operators across Mumbai apprehend that it might take around three months to install STBs at households who are 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."