KOLKATA: Urban development minister Firhad Hakim on Thursday asked the cable television industry to sort out the mess, both at homes and on the roads. He gave out a set of instructions to cable operators, multi-system operators (MSO) and broadcasters to end the cable channel chaos before the March 31 deadline for migration to ala carte. Also, he instructed the operators to clear the mesh of overhead cables.
Addressing the cable industry stakeholders at a meeting at the KMC headquarters, Hakim asked them to come clean on the prices of pay channels that have been hiked and urged broadcasters to announce the new rates, inclusive of GST, on TV and print advertisements so that consumers knew exactly how much they have to pay. They should also announce the a la carte prices of channels, according to genres and languages to make it easier for viewers to choose them as per their budget.
“Consumers are confused about the prices of pay channels as many MSOs and operators are leaving out the GST component while announcing the price. Broadcasters must include GST while declaring the price of individual channels and packages. This will help prevent frictions between operators and consumers in the lead-up to the migration, which has to be completed by March 31,” said Hakim, who is also the chairman of the Cable Network Development Committee.
An 18% GST on the base pack priced at Rs 130, which comprises free-to-air channels only, brings its final price to Rs 153. But many MSOs and operators have been declaring the price without the tax component, leading many to question the rate. “This has created confusion. While some MSOs are including GST, others are leaving it out while giving out the rates. Expecting a lower rate, many have refused to pay,” said south Kolkata cable operator Tapash Das.
Broadcasters’ representatives assured the minister of including GST while announcing prices in ads.
Viewers lauded the move. “The difference in price with and without GST is substantial. In fact, I chose not to subscribe to some channels when my operator told me about the GST component,” said New Alipore resident Debjani Ghosh.
Operators pointed out that they were struggling to upload viewers’ chosen channels to migrate them to the new regime. It apparently took them even 72 hours to provide a package of channels to a single consumer. “While a single channel can be provided immediately, we are struggling to provide packages quickly,” said Das. Hakim asked MSOs to explore ways of hastening the process.
The minister also asked cable operators to identify dead cables across south and central Kolkata and remove them within a week. He identified Park Street, Alipore, Harish Mukherjee Road and Hazra Road as locations where underground cable ducts would be laid to replace the messy overhead wires. “Dead cables at Alipore, Harish Mukherjee Road and Hazra Road must be identified and removed in a week. If the operators fail to do it, we shall remove them,” said Hakim. He added a pilot project for laying of underground cable ducts would be launched at Park Street, Harish Mukherjee Road, Alipore and Hazra Road. “We are working on the details of the project,” he added.