In the war between cable operators and the government, consumers are finding themselves on the receiving end, literally.
Already annoyed over their TV screens going blank, lakhs of non-set-top box (STB) cable TV subscribers in the city faced another setback when operators raised prices of the in demand set-top boxes (STB) by Rs. 200 on Monday. Caught between the devil (blackout) and the deep sea (costly STBs), they finally preferred burning a hole in their pocket than remaining off air.
Set-top boxes were available at Rs. 999 till March 31, but on Monday, when over 2.5 lakh TV sets were blacked out, their prices were suddenly hiked to Rs. 1,199. STBs that were a scarce commodity till two days ago, were flooded in cable TV market on Monday.
“I wonder how the shortage was overcome in a day. Yesterday, we were told that there was no supply of STB, but today they sold at Rs. 1,199,” said Shyam Mohan, a Mahanagarbased subscriber.
The viewers’ woes did not end here. Some consumers said that the operators hinted yet another hike in prices of STBs. According to cable operators as many as 2.5 lakh TV sets faced blackout on Sunday midnight as the March 31, deadline for installing STBs expired.
“We have always been fighting for consumers but no one is listening to us. We even had a meeting with district administration officials on the issue but to no avail,” said Anil Kumar Upadhyay, office- bearer, cable operators’ association.
Though a large number of subscribers bought the set top boxes on Monday, the digitisation target remained far from complete. “We still have to cover nearly 2 lakh subscribers,” said Praveen Kumar Gupta, district entertainment officer.
State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Laxmikant Bajpai slammed the Centre and the state government for not extending the March 31 digitisation deadline. He alleged that the Union government had struck a deal with the private DTH service providers. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had on Saturday written to Union minister of information and broadcasting to extend the deadline by six months.
There are around 5 lakh households in Lucknow, which use either DTH or Cable TV. Of these, 1.26 Lakh are DTH and the rest cable subscribers. Though the district administration said that nearly 1.5 lakh set-top boxes were required to be installed, cable operators put the number at 2.5 lakh.