Cable industry seeks government intervention

It's a cable industry versus broadcasters battle that promises to be long drawn if the government does not intervene soon.

The Cable TV Equipment Traders and Manufacturers' Association (CTMA) which met in Kolkata this week, has urged the setting up of a regulatory body on the lines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. This umbrella authority should lay down guidelines for the cable TV industry in the country, determine fixed cable and pay channel tariffs and delve into issues that are of growing importance to the cable TV industry, the CTMA says.

The National Cable and Telecommunication Association (NCTA), a consortium of cable ops in the Delhi region, holds similar opinions. The NCTA, which has filed a petition against a private broadcaster in the Delhi high court this week, has called upon the government to probe the legality of foreign pay TV channels in accordance with the prevailing laws of the land.

An NCTA release says: "The Government must form uniform guidelines for governance, entry, and operations of all foreign pay channels," and goes on to claim that "while pay TV subscriptions have increased by over 1,000 per cent in the last five years, the government is yet to ensure a fair pricing mechanism and impose a freeze on current subscription rates till conditional access system is introduced." NCTA president Vikki Choudhry accuses private broadcasters of stalling the implementation of conditional access system for pay TV channels as recommended by a I&B ministry task force.

CTMA secretary Sanjay Mansukhani also told a news conference on Tuesday that cable ops were hesitant to invest in upgradation programmes in the absence of specified laws and regulations governing the industry. The cable manufacturers have pinned their hopes on the Convergence Bill that may address some on their concerns. The CTMA claims to service nearly 36 million households across the country. 

The NCTA has issued an open letter also addressed to Chief Justice of India, leader of the opposition Sonia Gandhi, members of Parliament and ministries of Home Affairs, Finance, Communications, Information and Broadcasting and Law asking for the Government to step in to resolve the issue.

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