STBs should also be offered on rent: Centre

NEW DELHI: The central government today came into play to resolve the conditional access imbroglio in South Delhi area by issuing a notification that makes it mandatory for cable operators to offer consumers an option of taking set-top boxes (STBs) on rent. 

The government also made it clear that the outcome of CAS in South Delhi would decide whether it would be rolled out in other parts of the city as well. This was conveyed even as Delhi CM Sheila Dixit met information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today to assess the Delhi situation.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Prasad also hinted that it is only in deference to court's directive that CAS was being sought to be rolled out in South Delhi.

Dixit, on her part, said that her government is still new in office, though it is trying its best to see CAS remains consumer friendly. She also said that sub-divisional magistrates would monitor CAS rollout in the absence of a regulatory body.

Both the Centre and the Delhi government have agreed to also set up a dedicated consumer court to settle cable-related disputes.

However, Dixit evaded questions pertaining to the state government's laxity in dealing with CAS.

The notification issued by the I&B ministry states: "Every consumer must be given a choice of either purchasing a STB outright or acquiring it through rental scheme which will entitle him to a refund, should he not wish to use the STB for any reason".

Prasad also reiterated what he had stated in the Parliament yesterday. He said, "We would expect all stakeholders to settle any corporate rivalry... Failure to address these issues adequately would certainly jeopardise the implementation of CAS in other areas."

However, both Prasad and Dixit have ruled out rolling back CAS implementation for the time being.

Meanwhile, additional secretary (broadcasting) in the I&B ministry Vijay Singh held a review meeting with the Delhi MSOs and expressed the government's apprehension on lack of adequate education to South Delhi consumers.

The MSO assured the government that though the education process is on, "more concerted efforts would be made till 1 January".

Pointing out that about 20,000 boxes have already been seeded in the market, Jawahar Goel, head of Siti Cable, said the cable industry is doing everything in its powers to educate the consumers. He said, if cases of forcible selling of boxes had been reported, then they may have been exceptions.

Hathway Datacom's president (operations) for the North Indian region, S N Sharma, said that with the signing of an agreement with Zee Turner, Hathway CAS subscribers in Delhi would also get the Zee and Turner channels.

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