IBF comes out in support of CAS

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: It would have been surprising if it hadn't happened thus. Simply because of the big stakes for which some of the members are playing. So the inevitable was made public today: "The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) unanimously supports the Indian government's move to introduce conditional access system in the country and bring about addressability in Indian cable homes."

"The IBF board of directors is of the view that the Indian Parliament and the public should be apprised of the ground realities of the cable industry," a statement from the IBF stated today.

"The IBF feels that the Indian Government and public should be made aware of the two areas of concern in the cable industry - transparency in subscriber numbers and existing monopolies of cable operators."

The statement further added that the IBF board of directors feel that the consumers should be informed that the Pay TV broadcasters are recovering a small percentage of the revenues from cable operators "who are (to be held) responsible for the arbitrary hikes in prices."

The IBF also took the opportunity to deny a report published to the contrary in a section of the media a few days ago that the IBF, led by the foundation's chief, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma, is against the implementation of CAS.

Speaking to, SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta explained the IBF came out with the statement to correct a misconception among some sections in the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry that broadcasters were opposed to CAS in any way. "We want to send across a clear message that whatever the fulminations on the subject in Parliament may be, the broadcasters have a clear position on it." Referring to the problems the Bill was having in getting discussed in Parliament despite being listed on the agenda, Dasgupta made the point that "if the Bill is not coming (forward), it is not because of us."

Another IBF member told this evening: Even if some members (of the IBF) or individual broadcasters are not so much for CAS, or the way it is being sought to be implemented, there is no way the Foundation can come out openly against CAS as this will mean taking on the government head on which will not be a good move for many."

As far as the CAS discussion in Parliament is concerned, learns from government sources that the government (read the I&B ministry) has very little time to get the issue of CAS through the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) where it does not have a majority.

According to the sources, tomorrow (Friday) is a holiday because of Eid and on Saturday no business is transacted in the House. I&B minister Sushma Swaraj is slated to go out on a tour of Gujarat again from 8-10 December because of the impending elections which are to be held between 12 and 14 December.

That leaves just four days for the government to get the RS okay for CAS before Parliament adjourns sine die on November 18 to be reconvened again in February for the budget session.

But then the firebrand Swaraj is known to push through things which she believes is for the larger benefit of the public. So, don't write off CAS yet.

IBF is an apex body of broadcasters who operate and/or have business interests in India. Recently the Foundation was in the news for allegedly refused membership to Fashion TV, which has been a target of government barbs accusing the channel of showing things that are "contrary to Indian culture".

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