Cable TV

Blow cold, blow hot on CAS at Union Cabinet meeting today

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There's been a lot of yo-yoeing on whether the Indian government would today consider modifying the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 to accomodate compulsory migration by cable TV operators towards conditional access systems (CAS).

The buzz this morning was that the much-talked-about cabinet meeting will be discussing matters of the nation rather than matters related to cable TV.

Said a Delhi-based cable TV source in a telecon: "The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) which meets every Tuesday was to decide on CAS today. But because the Union Cabinet is meeting on other issues, a decision on CAS will not be possible today. The CCEA next meets on Tuesday and that's when we can expect a decision. It's quite possible the amendments may be pushed to the next session of Parliament unless someone with guts pursues CAS."

Apparently, that somebody is information & broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj. According to sources, she has been insisting that the Union cabinet which is currently meeting should discuss the issue of CAS. "She has made CAS her personal agenda," says another ministry source. "That's why she wants the amendments recommended by Rakesh Mohan to his earlier report to be incorporated in the Cable TV Act at the earliest. She will not tolerate a postponement."

The government plans to introduce the amendments to the Act in this session of Parliament once the cabinet gives its stamp of approval. CAS is expected to ensure uniform pricing of cable TV subscriptions throughout the country, while allowing cable TV consumers to pay only for the channels they watch.

A lead time of around six months is likely to be given to cable TV service providers from the date of notification for the installation of the addressability system. The four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai will be covered in the first phase of implementation of CAS, according to a report in The Economic Times.

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