Govt admits pay channel fees are market driven

NEW DELHI: It may sound contradictory, but the government has admitted in Parliament that "market forces" guide the subscription fee of pay channels and at present the government has "no role to play" in the fixing of money which is payable by cable operators to broadcasters for pay channels.

This admission is in sharp contrast to what the information and broadcasting ministry has been maintaining while trying to push through the implementation of conditional access system (CAS) which, the government has been saying, will help it to come to the cable viewing public's help.

In reply to a question on cable operators' huge earnings which is a bone of contention between cable ops and broadcasters, Swaraj told the Indian Parliament's Upper House (Rajya Sabha) earlier this week, "There are no legal provisions in the CATV regulation Act 1995 or the Rules framed thereunder to regulate the subscription charges levied by the pay channels/cable operators or the charges payable by the cable operators to TV broadcasting companies." 

The minister went on to reiterate that these are purely "contractual affairs between the broadcasting companies, cable operators and the subscribers and are market driven." 

Even while stating that subscription fees of pay channels are "market driven, the government hinted in Parliament that introduction of CAS would solve many of the problems.

To a part of the question ('what are the actions proposed to be taken to help subscribers having rights to view channels paid for without any harassment from cable ops?'), Swaraj pointed out that CAS is the cure for all such ills.

"The government has introduced the CATV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2002 with a view to mandating an addressable system for pay channels through cable networks. The system, when mandated, will allow the consumer to choose and pay for the channel(s) he wishes to watch," she added. 

However, some of the MPs are not buying this argument. A senior CPM member of Rajya Sabha told that indirectly the government is trying to have a control over what people can and should watch on television through CAS.

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