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Service tax on films: I&B minister to meet FM
January, 19th 2013

Information and Broadcasting (I&B) minister Manish Tewari, along with a delegation from the film industry, will meet the Union finance minister to discuss withdrawal of the 12.36% service tax, I&B secretary Uday K Varma told mediapersons on Friday.

"We are with the film industry and our minister has promised to resolve the issue," said Varma.

Last Sunday, Tewari met members of the film fraternity after they threatened to strike work against the "unjustified" tax levied on them, including service tax.

The ministry has also appointed filmmaker Amole Gupte as chairperson of CFSI. When pointed out that the annual budget allocation for children films is very low, Varma said: "The budget has been increased to Rs 12 crore. It is not the budget, but the content, that really matters."

Meanwhile, the I&B ministry is confident of meeting the March 31 deadline of digitization in 38 cities across the country. The four metros - Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai - were part of the first phase of digitization. The second phase will cover the 10 lakh population-plus cities including Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Thane.

Varma said the ministry has been reviewing the progress and nodal officers have been appointed in every state to oversee the conversion.

"It has been estimated that 1.6 crore set-top boxes would be required to digitize the 38 cities, excluding the four metros. But a study conducted by the I&B ministry has revealed that 60 lakh television sets in these cities are already digitized," he said.

Varma added that a few cities, such as Ludhiana and Amritsar, are already 90% digital and the level of digitization is high even in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Expressing satisfaction over the implementation of the first phase of digitization, he said the exercise was more or less completely successful in Mumbai and Delhi. He added that even Kolkata, which initially had reservations about digital conversion, has come on board with a conversion rate nearing 90%. He declined to comment about Chennai, saying the matter is sub-judice.

Varma said the first phase of digitization was a learning experience and the government was working to refine the process.. He said, the feedback from the newly converted digital homes has been mostly favourable and added that the move is bringing in a more transparent cable TV regime in the country.

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