SC paves way for digital broadcasting

Kathmandu, February 18

The government’s plan to switch country’s analogue television broadcasting system to digital is expected to gain momentum, as the Supreme Court today vacated its previous interim order.

Though the government had decided to make it mandatory for analogue cable television viewers to switch to the digital system from November 15, its implementation was put in limbo after the apex court issued an interim order in November-end in response to a petition filed against the government’s plan.

The petition filed by Bijendra Lal Joshi against the government’s plan to end analogue cable TV broadcasting system states that implementation of digital TV broadcasting system will breach people’s right to information and violate the constitutional provision of uninterrupted broadcasting in Nepal. However, a division bench of justices Cholendra Shamsher JB Rana and Prakash Man Singh Raut today vacated SC’s previous interim order and opened doors for the government to implement the digital TV broadcasting system.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Communications, which is authorised to digitise the country’s television broadcasting, said it would start the process of implementing digital television broadcasting as soon as possible.

“MoIC is yet to receive the SC’s decision and directive. As soon as we receive it, we will enforce the digital television broadcasting system,” said Sangita Ojha, MoIC under-secretary.

Under the digital system of cable TV broadcasting, customers are required to connect set-top boxes to their television sets, which will enable them to view clear and high definition TV channels. Implementation of the system is also expected to increase the government’s revenue as cable TV subscribers have been viewing channels on multiple sets through a single cable. But under the new digital system, one set-top box will allow broadcast only on one television.

Cable TV operators say the government should implement digital TV broadcasting system in a gradual manner, as majority of cable TV subscribers are yet to switch to the new digital system.

“Though people are increasingly subscribing to digital TV, more than half of the subscribers of cable television in the country are still using the analogue system. An abrupt implementation of the digital system will bar thousands of cable TV subscribers from viewing TV channels,” said an official of Federation of Nepal Cable Television Association, seeking anonymity.

According to FNCTA, there are 3.2 million cable TV subscribers in the country. Sudeep Acharya, chief executive officer of Dish Home — a digital cable service provider — said Nepal was obliged to switch to digital TV broadcasting as directed by the International Telecommunication Union to its member states.