Marathon IBF meeting on CAS ends with agreement on way forward

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation meeting on CAS - or conditional access system - held at the offices of Discovery in New Delhi ended after a marathon five hour session with head honchos of channels having tired smiles on their faces. In attendance were Star India's Peter Mukerjea, SET India's Kunal Dasgupta, Discovery India's Deepak Shourie, ESPN-Star Sports' Manu Sawhney, Turner Broadcasting's Anshuman Misra and Zee TV's Sunil Khanna. 

The meeting covered a range of issues related to CAS right from technology (analogue or digital - what is the way forward?), to the cost of the addressable set top box to the mode of financing (lease or bank finance etc). 

The IBF committee concluded that the task force on CAS should give broadcasters a chance to spell out the details for the transition towards addressability. And that they would have to meet over the next few days to thrash out the details of the way forward. The IBF members also said that the issue of CAS should be referred to the Parliamentary Select committee headed by parliamentarian Somnath Chatterjee in the interest of the consumer. Observers see in this an effort by the IBF to bury CAS in ordinate delays as the committee has not been able to move on the Convergence Bill for a long time now and is unlikely to do so in future too.

A source close to the discussions said that there was an undercurrent of resentment against Essel group and Zee TV chairman Subhash Chandra for openly endorsing CAS in isolation of the IBF yesterday. "In principle, all present agreed that there is no getting away from CAS, but we have to approach it with a full understanding of the issues and considering all perspectives jointly," says the source. 

Another issue that the IBF agreed upon is that six months is to short a time to get addressable boxes into enough Indian homes as hardly any boxes are available in the market. Additionally, the IBF concluded that a focused communications strategy on the CAS issue has to be drawn up, something the IBF is believed to be working on. 

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