When I came across this headline over my morning coffee, “Set-top boxes a must from July for greater choice“, I was very excited. More choices always make my little heart beat very hard.
So this is the deal:
Starting July, every household in Delhi will need a set-top box to be able to view channels of one’s liking. The information and broadcasting ministry is planning to implement a ‘must-provide clause’ for cable operators to enable TV viewers in the four Metro cities to ask for their favourite channels as a right. After July 1, the sub-divisional magistrates across Delhi will take action against all cable operators who are found violating the new norms, which mandate provision of set-top box enabled digital facilities to all viewers.
Hold on, so I can no longer go with the local cable operator who already provides me with all the channels I want legally, at a very low cost, but will be forced to pay larger amounts directly to the big companies (Tata, Reliance)?
This is more choice?
An I&B ministry official told the media
At present, the analog cables can transmit a limited number of channels. Therefore, the local cable operator has to select which channels to provide and the consumer is left with no choice. After digitization, consumers will be able to pick and choose channels through a settop box (STB). They will pay money only for the channels they have chosen.
All lies. At the moment I can get any channel I want, and pay the same fixed amount, while with the big companies I will be forced to pay separately for separate “bouquets” called Southern Delight or whatever, paying for Telugu, Tamil and Kannada even if I only want Malayalam.
Nothing so sweet smelling as the restriction of choice…
The question I have is – why is the Parliament of this country, which does not have the time or inclination to pass or even decently debate the Lokpal Bill or the Women’s Reservations Bill, or to sit down and discuss the utter irrelevance of colonial penal provisions such as Section 377, why is this parliament so efficiently moving to pass a law to force people to use set top boxes?
So then I turned to that organ of the Indian communists, The Financial Express, which told me that
In less than 11-months, no consumer of cable television in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai will be able to watch the services without a set-top box (STB). The STB will also become mandatory for all the 100 million-plus cable and satellite subscribers in India by 2014. This means, the monthly cable bills of the subscribers will shoot-up though the quality of service is expected to become world-class.
Thou shalt have world-class service if thou canst afford it.
And if you can’t afford it, you can’t have cable television at all.
Adding to the communist propaganda, it went on to say:
While a switch-over from analogue cable (copper-wire cable) to complete digitalisation (via STB, fiber-optic cables and digital backend) has been a long-standing demand from the large cable operators, the move will become a bane for small-time, city-based local operators, experts said.
(Not a communist paper, you say? Oops. My mistake.)
This legislation is essentially the government acting with alacrity in the interests of monopoly capital, using the might of the state (“will take action”) to eliminate competition in the cable television market. Why, I ask myself, must the move from a lower to a higher technology be legislated by the state in a non-life saving situation? I understand that corporations will continually phase out technologies in order to make us pay more for “upgraded” technologies, leaving us with no choice. So even if I want to stick to Windows 2003, I will have to keep upgrading to higher and higher versions. But then, it’s up to me to shift to Linux or whatever. And that’s what I expect from a corporation – the going after higher and higher profits. But here it’s as if the government passed a law that made Microsoft’s profits easier, by outlawing all earlier versions of Windows.
The government has mandated that I must perforce shift to the “world-class” technology.
The Conditional Access System, the slick consumer-friendly name (consumer- bamboozling, more like it) for the set top box regime, was introduced in 2003 in Delhi and Mumbai but it did not eliminate local cable operators. Eight years later, when the market failed to ensure on its own, the transition to set-top boxes on a large enough scale (i.e. people continue to prefer the local cable operators), the state steps in to help out the big cable companies.
Oh – is that what they meant by world-class? Walking the walk of global monopoly capital?