Cable operators in the state will no longer be able to evade entertainment duty. The Maharashtra government has said that from now, multi-system operators (MSOs) will be responsible for the collection of the duty from cable operators. Earlier, the state used to collect the duty directly from cable operators.
Now, each television viewer in the municipal corporation limit will have to shell out Rs45 to his or her cable operator every month, after which the cable operator will hand the amount over to the MSO in charge. This amount is Rs30 and Rs15 per viewer in the municipality and rural areas, respectively.
The state cabinet approved the amendment in the Maharashtra Entertainment Act, 1923, on Wednesday. With this amendment, the state will be raking in a revenue of Rs1,100 crore from the earlier Rs550 crore. There are around 13,000 cable operators and 12 MSOs across the state.
MSOs are those with multiple cable television systems. Popular multi-system operators in India include Den Networks and Hathway Cable.
“Cable operators were not paying entertainment duty as per their service provider numbers. Some operators were collecting the duty on behalf of the government, but not submitting it. It was difficult for us to keep a tab on them,” said an official from the revenue department.
Swadhin Kshatriya, additional chief secretary (revenue), said, “MSOs have a detailed list of all the users. They relay the feed to local cable operators which is then forwarded to the television viewers. Thus, the MSOs will have to pay the duty and later, they can collect the amount from the viewers through the cable operators.”
He added that it is easier to keep track of 12 MSOs rather than 13,000 cable operators.
The penalty for not shelling out the entertainment duty, too, has been increased from Rs500 to Rs25,000, according to Kshatriya. “Besides, cable operators have to place Rs5 lakh as a security deposit as against the earlier Rs2,000. Now, there are no loopholes which can be exploited by cable operators to evade duty,” he added.
Another state government official said that by December 2014, set-top boxes will be mandatory across the state, including in rural areas, bringing transparency into the system.
The other side
Ashok Bhanushali, president of the All India Cable Operators Association, said the state government is unfairly targeting them. “The government is putting an additional financial burden on us by increasing the licence fee to Rs5 lakh. We were not consulted while making such major changes in the Act and duty-charging model,” Bhanushali said.