Prasad says CAS rollout deadline has to be met;Sony Pictures International TV boss urges supportive regulatory environment

MUMBAI: This was THE high-power session of FRAMES 2003. "Can India make it: The Way Forward" was chaired this morning by the I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad with the keynote address by Sony Pictures, International Television president Michael Grindon.

While the other speakers included the likes of CNN International president Chris Cramer, (over a live video feed CNN headquarters in Atlanta), I&B secretary Pawan Chopra, actor Aamir Khan and director Shekhar Kapoor, for the television industry, all eyes were on what Grindon would say, especially with the CAS issue at the back of everyone’s mind.

There were two key points that stood out in Grindon’s speech. First was the emphasis that Sony was fully behind its television business in India. "Our financial commitment to Sony India is the largest anywhere outside the US," Grindon said.

The way forward, according to Grindon was that there should be a "supportive regulatory environment" in place which would allow for the full utilisation of the potential that new technologies offered. That was the only way that Sony’s core philosophy of bringing technology and entertainment together could be realized in India, he said.

Grindon said his company was "fully supportive" of CAS but expressed fears that the CAS rollout deadline might make for the introduction of systems that would soon be taken over by technologies thereby making them redundant. It will take some time to implement this system as there are no sufficient manpower and financial support provided by the government, Grindon said. There were insufficient decoders with the cable operators at present to meet consumer demands.

Grindon gave the example of the US to buttress his case. America passed the Telecom Act in 1996 to control spiraling costs of accessing cable channels, but still seven years down the line, Americans are still waiting for the benefits of that legislation with cable costs actually being higher than ever.

Prasad, as part of his concluding comments, reaffirmed his stance that the CAS deadline would not be pushed back. "The goal posts can be shifted as the situation warrants but serious intent means that there are deadlines that need to be met."

The government would do all in its power to act as a facilitator, Prasad assured, adding that as the CAS rollout progressed, practical exigencies that were thrown up could be dealt with. But for this, the process had to first get under way.

Prasad said that the government had never wanted to intervene in this matter. "We thought the question of addressability would be addressed by the markets." That didn’t happen, he said.

"As a politician, my primary concern is to the consumer," Prasad said. "Let people have choices. Let there be honest, transparent competition," he concluded.


The session: Can India make it: The way forward

Chairman: Minister for Information & Broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad

Keynote Presentations: Columbia Tristar International Television USA president , Michael Grindon

The speakers:CNN International president Chris Cramer, over a live video feed CNN headquarters in Atlanta), Four Feathers Production promoter Shekhar Kapur, minister of State for External Affairs Vinod Khanna, secretary, ministry of I&B Pawan Chopra, Aamir Khan Productions promoter Aamir Khan


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