FTA channels demand separate regulatory authority for broadcasters

NEW DELHI: India's information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad doesn't tire from saying there is life beyond and apart from conditional access system (CAS), but he continues to meet the industry over the issue.

The free to air (FTA) Indian channels have now demanded a regulatory mechanism for the broadcasting sector to be put in place now that CAS rollout is just about 20 days away.

According to government sources, representatives from broadcasting companies, including those from Zee, Aaj Tak, NDTV and Sahara, were of the view that a regulatory authority for broadcasting could be separated from the Convergence Bill, since it was not known how long its passage would take.

However, Zee Telefilms vice-chairman Jawahar Goel played down the meeting with Prasad saying it was a routine one to take stock of the situation before CAS rollout. Among those in the delegation were TV Today Network CEO G Krishnan, Sahara TV president Mahesh Prasad, NDTV's director Narayan Rao and Goel.

A PTI report states that some broadcasters also met Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, who had been opposing CAS, in Mumbai on Monday. A delegation of roadcasters is also likely to meet Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit, an opponent of the measure, urging her not to make CAS a political debate.

The PTI report, quoting unnamed sources, said, at today's meeting in Delhi the broadcasters impressed upon the minister that Star wanted CAS to be delayed as their television ratings would drop since its direct-to-home (DTH) proposal was still in the pipeline.

The broadcasters also welcomed the setting up of a CAS Implementation Committee, which had representatives from all broadcasters. Sources said Prasad told the broadcasters that the government, having learnt a lot from the CAS experience, was for a regulator, however, the issue was clubbed with the Convergence Bill pending in Parliament.

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