Television

Consumer body to protest against CAS delay even as Bill awaits Upper House nod for referral to committee

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NEW DELHI: Even as the government has more or less decided to refer the conditional access issue (CAS) to a parliamentary committee in the face of stiff opposition coming from the Congress and the Left as well as a lobby from within the ruling BJP, a group of consumer activists has decided to stage a protest in the capital tomorrow, against the delay in passing of the legislation.

Before a decision on deferring the amendments to the Cable TV (Networks) Regulation Act, facilitating implementation of the conditional access system (CAS) is taken, however, the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) has to take up the issue and pass a motion that the Cable TV (Networks) Amendment Bill 2002 was being referred to a parliamentary committee for further discussion. 

It is however still not clear when the I&B ministry is likely to put the CAS issue back on the business agenda of the Rajya Sabha for this purpose. Unless, of course, I & B minister Sushma Swaraj manages to pull off another coup and bring round the Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha to see her point of view, which has been the basis of introducing the Bill in Parliament.

According to government sources, Swaraj withdrew the Bill from the Rajya Sabha's agenda a day before yesterday, in an attempt to garner a consensus on it. Opposition however has come from the Left and Congress parties which have now started saying that the government cannot bring in something which has not been tested elsewhere, and also that the amendments would give the government more power to regulate in an era when the aim is to go in increasingly for de-regulation.

That hectic lobbying by broadcasters has taken place against a quick implementation of CAS is a foregone conclusion, but what is more interesting is that the cable operators' and set-top box manufacturers' lobby which was pushing hard for CAS seems to weakening. Laments Vikky Choudhry, an independent cable operator and a vocal supporter of CAS, "It is shameful that in a democracy like ours, decisions benefiting a larger section of people are being delayed because of obvious reasons."

Choudhry, who is more or less resigned to the fact the CAS issue will now get referred to the parliamentary committee, however, says, "If the government fails to take a decision on CAS now, cable operators will have no option but to hike monthly subscription fee to around Rs 400 per month per household. In Mumbai, rates of Rs 300 a month already abound.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Action Network, under whose aegis tomorrow's protest is planned, may also hold a press conference on the issue, highlighting the consumer's point of view.

After all, it is in the name of consumer that the ball called CAS was set rolling. 


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