Consumer body seeks I&B intervention on CAS

MUMBAI: Even as the Mumbai High Court decision on the cable industry issues involving consumers, broadcasters and cable operators is pending, a Mumbai based consumer activist organisation has decided to appeal directly to union minister of state for information and broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Consumer Action Network (CAN) president Ahmad M Abdi has written a letter to the minister urging him to take necessary steps to protect the interest of consumers under the conditional access system (CAS) regime. CAN is a consumer activist organisation comprising of lawyers registered under the Society Registration Act, 1860.

According to the letter, a copy of which is with the team, the following issues need to be sorted out:

* The ministry must constitute a regulatory authority. The consumer has got no resource to file complaints to grievances in the absence of one. Till the conversions commission becomes a reality, an adhoc regulatory authority should be in place where multifarious issues relating to the industry can be sorted out.

* The ministry must look into the fact that the broadcasters are bundling their pay channels as bouquets and pressuring the consumer to subscribe to the entire bouquet by pricing the popular individual higher. This practice adopted by the broadcasters is prima facie unfair, unreasonable and exploitative in nature and it is duty of the government to regulate and check such types of practices in public interest.

* The bouquet of "free-to-air" (FTA) channels should include the right mix of entertainment, news, sports, music and children's programmes which can accessed by the consumer who pays the FTA bouquet price of Rs 72 per month.

* The I&B ministry must urge the finance ministry to exempt cable TV service of FTA bouquet from the service tax net. The reason being that cable TV is the basic source of information and entertainment to the common masses as well as the economically weaker section of the society.

* The state governments must yield to the request from consumer bodies that the FTA cable TV service should become exempt from the purview of entertainment tax.

* The ministry must develop a mechanism to counter the probable exploitation of the consumers by the cable operators or multi-system operators (MSOs). There are fears that the cable trade could pressure consumers to subscribers to pay channels along with FTA channels - refusing to provide FTA channels alone. It must be mandatory to provide cable TV service as per demand rather than force.

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