Television

Anti-CAS PIL filed in capital, 1st hearing Wednesday

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Ever since the cable fraternity, armed with a High Court order, got the conditional access back onto the front burner, the question has been when would the counter punch come?

That answer was provided today in the form of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed jointly by two consumer bodies in the Delhi High Court against the moves by the cable fraternity to bring addressability into cable & satellite homes.

The joint petition filed by filed by the Consumer Coordination Council, an umbrella grouping of over 50 consumer groups across the country, and the Consumers' Online Foundation Forum (set up by a group of lawyers) is up for hearing tomorrow. The respondent in the case is the India government through the information and broadcasting ministry.

The petition seeks the intervention of the court against the introduction CAS "in the present manner as envisaged under the amended Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 ("The Cable TV Act")."

The PIL claims that the implementation of CAS across 40 million cable and satellite homes will cost consumers in these cities nearly Rs 160 billion with no commensurate benefits.

The PIL charges CAS as being arbitrary and violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech (what next?) and right against discrimination.

The PIL also states that CAS still fails to address many important issues. Interestingly, two of the charges that have been leveled are that the CAS Act does not address area-specific monopolistic distribution of cable operators and the rights of consumers to decide on the choice of "access device" (set top box).

When contacted by indiantelevision.com, many cable fraternity representatives appeared unaware of the developments and some even went so far as to say that they came to know of it when contacted by indiantelevision.com.

Independent cable operator and head of Home Cable Vikki Choudhry was quite dismissive of the whole thing and said, "It doesn't make a difference whether a PIL has been filed or not."

A Hathway Cable and Datacom representative, meanwhile, said, "It has to be seen what is the stand the court takes before commenting."

Tomorrow could well tell whether this latest PIL around the CAS case serves more than nuisance value.

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