Stage set for CAS Bill introduction?

NEW DELHI: When Parliament reconvenes for its Winter Session from 18 November, the decks appear to be clear for the introduction of Bill incorporating amendments to the Cable TV (Network) Regulation Act, 1995, which will facilitate implementation of conditional access systems (CAS).

The CAS Bill is however, unlikely to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the first week of the session. Reason: the first day, 18 November, is likely to see no business being transacted as obit references will be made before adjournment. The second day, 19 November, is a holiday on account of Guru Nanak Jayanti. That will leave just three days before the week comes to an end.

"In all probability, CAS is likely to be discussed in the Rajya Sabha around 25 November," a senior government official told in Delhi, adding that this is likely to be the schedule unless information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj literally steamrolls through CAS in the Rajya Sabha in the first week of the Parliament's session. What lends credence to this possibility is that there is some speculation in the industry that the Bill could be introduced for discussion as early as 20 November.

According to political sources, however, Swaraj is still to bring about a consensus amongst MPs in the Opposition-dominated Rajya Sabha and in recent times no talks have been held with Rajya Sabha members of either the Congress or the Left parties.

'400 Resident welfare associations' in Delhi invited for CAS seminar'

Some vocal supporters of CAS have, meanwhile, found a novel way of putting the issue back in the limelight just before Parliament reconvenes - seek resident welfare associations' (RWAs) help in putting indirect pressure on policy-makers to hasten the passage of CAS in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament). It has already cleared the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament).

In this connection, a day-long seminar has been scheduled for Thursday in Delhi where representatives from Delhi RWAs, the government, select cable operators, consumer action groups and media will discuss the issue of pricing of pay channels, the benefits of CAS and why it should be implemented ASAP.

According to the chief architect of the Delhi-based National Cable & Telecom Association (NCTA) Vicky Choudhary, which is organising the meet, "Most channels revise upwardly their subscription fee around January which is likely to spark off another round of face-offs between subscribers and cable operators. That's why we thought this day-long interaction would be useful."

Though Choudhary was evasive when asked whether this was being done, just days before Parliament reconvenes, to put indirect pressure on policy-makers, he did admit reluctantly: "Some residual effect will certainly be there (on members of Parliament of the Upper House or Rajya Sabha)."

According to Choudhary, invitations for participation for Thursday's meeting has gone out to over 400 RWAs, top government officials involved with policy-making on CAS and the media.

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