Cable TV

Senior cabinet colleague scuppered Swaraj's bid to get CATV amendment bill through RS?

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That the Rajya Sabha (Indian Parliament's Upper House) could not take up the Cable TV Networks Regulations Amendment Bill on 17 May (last Friday), the last day before Parliament was adjourned sine die, is old news.

But not many know how hectic behind-the-scenes confabulations between some senior ministers in the government and politicians from the Opposition saw to it that the discussion on the bill, the implementation of which will facilitate the implementation of conditional access system (CAS) in cable homes, was not accorded priority.

After the Lok Sabha (Lower House) passed by voice vote the amendments to the CATV Act on CAS last Wednesday, it was expected information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj would manage to get the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha too. But that was not to be and the bill now has to either wait for the monsoon session of Parliament or, if the government so desires, then the President can promulgate an Ordinance (an executive order) making introduction of CAS a necessity in a phased manner.

The course of events were as follows. Political sources say that on Friday, in the forenoon, an influential and senior minister in the government held discussions on CAS with Rajya Sabha opposition members. It needs noting that the BJP-led NDA government does not have a majority in the Upper House.

The agenda of the meeting: why CAS should not be hurried through without proper discussion and should preferably be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecom (headed by the veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Somnath Chatterjee. The CPM is the largest single political party in the Rajya Sabha).

An hour later, the sources say, Swaraj too, spoke to various Rajya Sabha opposition members on the benefits of CAS.

Now it seems that the persuasive powers of Swaraj's colleague prevailed over the members who deemed it fit that more importance should be given to the Jammu & Kashmir situation and other related issues like security of the nation rather than to the CATV Amendment Bill which, according to Swaraj, would usher in a new revolution in Indian cable TV homes.

That a senior minister in the government spoke to senior MPs of the Rajya Sabha is confirmed. But when indiantelevision.com attempted to get in touch with Swaraj for her version, we were told over the weekend that she was busy. On Monday her office informed us that that she, along with a delegation of people from the world of entertainment, had already left for the Cannes Film Festival.

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