Govt. debating whether CAS should be made mandatory?

NEW DELHI: To CAS or not to CAS mandatorily? This is the question that is being debated by the government.

According to a senior government official, "There is a thinking going round in the information and broadcasting ministry that conditional access systems (CAS) should not be implemented with a "must" clause. In other words, not to make it mandatory."

Though the official was quick to add that "there was nothing formal" to the thinking on CAS in the ministry, he admitted that the current spate of debate on CAS, especially issues related to investments and cost to the consumer, has made it necessary to look at other aspects as well.

The idea is to go in for CAS on an optional basis. Those consumers and cable operators who want to go in for CAS can go in for it, those who don't want that can continue in the present regime where on an average the monthly cable susbcription fee is Rs 300/month/household, which gives access to over 70 channels.

However, when efforts were made to confirm this from the I&B ministry itself, it came to naught as nobody was willing to talk on the issue.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the industry and some government officials was held at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) yesterday in Delhi where the various inputs received by BIS on the technical aspects of a set-top box (STB) were discussed.

Some 50-odd people from the cable industry, manufacutueres like Thomson and Philips and the government attended yesterday's meeting which started at about 10 a.m. and went on till late in the afternoon.

Amongst the many issues discussed was the digital aspect of a STB, including features like connectors and look-ins.

At the meeting it was also discussed what type of technology can a cable operator opt for and whether it should be made mandatory to have a remote control with an analog STB. A digital STB will mandatorily have a remote control.

The BIS is expected to formulate a final report latest by next month for the government's consideration.

It is also expected that the amendments to the Cable TV (Networks) Regulation Act, 1995, which will facilitate CAS, will sail through the Rajya Sabha (Indian parliament's Upper House) without too much of a problem.

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