Capital's Home Cable to adhere to CAS rollout

NEW DELHI: Even as the federal government in India is contemplating whether to distance itself from the second round of controversy regarding implementation of conditional access system (CAS), the first salvo has been 

fired in Delhi.

An independent cable operator, Vikki Choudhry, has shot off letters to the pay broadcasters that his network would be implementing addressability from 15 December.

Pointing out that after the first fortnight of this month, all the pay channels will have to pass through an addressable set- top box (STB) to reach cable subscribers' homes, Home Cable Networks managing director Choudhry's letter to the broadcasters says, "You shall be entitled to charge on the basis of actual number of subscribers who choose to subscribe to and watch your pay channels."

This step would be taken, Choudhry points out, pursuant to a high court judgement announced on 4 December on a civil writ petition filed by Cable Networks Association and others against the Union of India. The Delhi high court, after a lengthy hearing on the case and reserving its judgement for over a month, had observed that taking Delhi off the CAS rollout map because of elections amounted to being unfair to the petitioners and had quashed a government notification to this effect.

Buoyed by this, the Delhi cable ops and MSOs had decided that from 15 December all pay channels would be routed through an STB for implementation of CAS.

The letter from Home Cable, which services some upmarket residential localities in the south zone of Delhi where CAS is being sought to be implemented (as in other south zones of Mumbai and Kolkata) , further states, " We shall pay in accordance to the rates as communicated by 

ministry of information and broadcasting, vide its letter dated 30- 7-2003."

It has also been made clear to the broadcasters that Home Cable would be paying them the subscription money from subscribers after "deducting service charges."

The letter regarding CAS has been sent by courier and e-mail to Star India, ESPN Star Sports, Modi Entertainment Network (that looks after the distribution of some channels), Zee Turner and Sony Entertianment TV India.

It is expected that bigger MSOs operating in Delhi like Siti Cable, Hathway and INCablenet and other independent cable ops too would be sending similar missives to the pay broadcasters over the next few days.

If the central government wishes to keep away from CAS, it can pass the onus of seeing smooth implementation of CAS to the various state governments. However, it has not been able to make up its mind whether to do this or again get involved as a mediator. The present stand of the I&B ministry is that the court judgement has been sent to the law ministry for examination.

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