Broadcasters unhappy with Cas, SMS; MSOs rebut charges

NEW DELHI: Well into the third month of mandated Cas rolling out in the designated areas of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, broadcasters say they are increasingly frustrated.

Besides their grouse that the money per pay channel (Rs 5) is unsustainabe, they have expressed their doubts over the subscriber management system (SMS) that cable networks have in place.

The ire of the broadcasters showed up last week when an English news channel migrated to the FTA category, blaming the Cas system in general. While Trai authorities insisted that the broadcasters were happy with the fact that the system had become addressable, the question raised was how does one know if there is still under-declaration.

Senior members of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation told that there was no guarantee the SMS would give the correct figures. They also averred that in a short period of time, fake SMS cards would flood the market and LCOs would then get back to the old business of under-declaration.


"Tell me, in places like Jehangirpuri and other parts of East Delhi (where the financial capacity of an average household is somewhat disadvantaged as compared to those in South Delhi), people are getting all the channels for Rs 50 or Rs 70. How is that possible? Because under-declaration is so massive that the LCOs still make a profit after such low payments per household," an IBF member said.

What is the guarantee that the SMS will work?" he further asked.

MSOs‘ however, hold that they can provide evidence that SMS works. Says Anil Malhotra, vice president operations, Incable, "These cards, whether Irdeto or Conax or Niagra, all work across the world. Hathway uses Conax, which is what Star as a broadcaster uses across the world. So why should it not work in India?"


Malhotra says: "We have been asked by Trai to submit the first of the quarterly SMS reports by 21 March. Let the MSOs talk then. There is no question for under-declaration. Everything is databased and no one can tamper with this. Once the reports are out everyone will know."

He adds that the data is there, but though the boxes have been seeded in homes who have opted for Cas, many households have not yet given their final choices and filled up the forms.

Arvind Mohan, executive vice president of WWIL says, "The fact that the channel migrated to FTA is the evidence that Cas is a success. With SMS, many channels would have to migrate now to keep their advertising base intact. No one can make false claims about their viewership figures."

IBF officials also admitted that, generally speaking, migration of pay channels to FTA reflected the falling number of viewers of those channels.

But will the SMS finally satisfy the broadcasters, and is there a way fake cards for STBs can be prevented from flooding the market? The answer lies with Trai perhaps.

Trai has made it clear to that if there are discrepancies found in SMS data, it would act strictly.

Till the figures are out, which could be in the first or second week of April, expect the two camps to keep fighting.


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