I&B pushing for CAS tabling next week

NEW DELHI: The information and broadcasting ministry today is understood to be pushing ahead for the issue of conditional access system (CAS) to be included in the business agenda of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the India Parliament next week.

A meeting relating to CAS was also held today at the I&B ministry and it was attended amongst other by the minister Sushma Swaraj and senior ministry officials, including joint secretary broadcasting Rakesh Mohan, who also happens to head the costing committee which is looking into the issue of pricing of the basic tier of free to air channels in a post-CAS era.

According to senior I&B ministry officials, the effort is to have the Cable TV Regulation Amendment Bill 2002, envisaging beinging addressability in Indian cable TV homes, being listed in Rajya Sabha for Monday which is an I&B ministry day. However, the tabling of the Bill, for which three hours has been set aside for debate, may still happen on some other day. The date has still to be definitely decided.

However, till early evening it was not clear whether CAS will be part of RS's agenda fro the next week or not and what will be the strategy of the I&B ministry considering Opposition-dominated RS has been insisting on a debate on CAS before a nod is given..

The I&B ministry's anxiety to have the CAS issue get the RS' nod can be undertsandable, especially in the light of the tabling of a report in Parliament on the Communication Convergence Bill of the Standing Committee on IT and Telecom.

If Parliament in all its wisdom decides to go ahead with the legislation on convergence, envisaging a super-regulator for IT, telecom and broadcasting sectors, during this sesion only then CAS is likely to take a back seat.

As and when CCB is enacted into a law, most existing Acts amd rules and regulations meant for the IT, telecom and broadcasting sectors are to be subsumed into the bigger piece of legislation. This would also include the Cable TV (Network) regulation Act, 1995 which Swaraj wants to be amended to have the enabling clause on CAS to be included.

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