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CAS report expected to go before cabinet early next week

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A small victory is in sight for cable operators who have been lobbying hard for the implementation of the conditional access system (CAS) - a move to counter, what cable operators term, "frequent arm-twisting by big broadcasters." The Rakesh Mohan committee's recommendations on CAS will go to the Cabinet early next week.

The government is likely to okay the implementation of the CAS as part of a policy guideline before the ongoing session of Parliament comes to an end. Implementation of the CAS would also allow cable operators to offer other services too to cable operators with the advancement of technology.

"The aim is to get a Cabinet nod on CAS before the necessary amendments in the Cable TV Regulation Act is moved in Parliament," a senior official of the information and broadcasting ministry told indiantelevision.com.

According to the government official, a cabinet note on CAS is being prepared by the I&B ministry and "the effort will be to put it up before the Cabinet for its consideration at the earliest, which may be as early as next week." The official added: "After that an amendment in the CATV Act before this Parliament session comes to an end would just be a formality."

Why is the move on CAS being termed by the cable industry as an initiative in its favour? Explains Vicky Chowdhry, one of the big independent cable operators in Delhi, who from time to time takes on the might of broadcasters like ESPN-Star through legal moves: "CAS is good for the cable industry as then the broadcasters would not resort to frequent subscription hikes and we can also charge from the paying public for the pay channels which they want to see. Or, we can give subscribers a basic service which would not be very high from the current monthly subscription an average Indian household pays."

The Rakesh Mohan committee, set up by the I&B ministry, after consultation with stake holders in the broadcasting industry, in its report had said that amongst other things all pay channels should come as part of the CAS and the government would reserve the right to determine the price of the basic-tier service - a move described by the government mandarins as a safety clause for an average cable viewing public.

The committee had also said that that all encrypted channels would be defined as "subscription based channels" and routed through a set top box. Unencrypted free to air channels, on the other hand, would not need to be routed through the box.

For the subscriber, that would mean the ability to choose the exact bouquet of channels he wants to get.

Earlier, a technical sub-committee of the task force had recommended that basic standards for all cable operators should be laid down while giving them the freedom to choose their building blocks on top of the base tier of services.

The group has representation from government, cable operators, multi-system operators (MSOs), broadcasters and

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