Television

Delhi cable ops upbeat with HC order, may implement CAS by 15 Dec.

NEW DELHI: If the cable operators of Delhi have their way, then conditional access system (CAS) would be rolled out by them tomorrow.

So upbeat are they with yesterday's Delhi high court order, quashing denotification of the Capital from the addressability map, that they conveyed today to the I&B ministry that they would go ahead with a tentative date of 15 December for implementation.

However, a government official, who met a delegation of representatives from various multi-system operators (MSOs) today, was cautious in his approach and, reportedly, told the delegation that the ministry would have to study the court order properly.

A copy of the certified court order was handed over to the official today by the enthusiastic cable industry delegation.

That the government was not exactly happy with the turn of events was clear when some officials told indiantelevision.com later this evening that the law ministry had been instructed to examine the High Court order for loopholes, if any.

Meanwhile, even if the path in Delhi seemed to have been smoothened out, Mumbai remains a thorn in the CAS crown for cable ops and the government.

"I don't think the high court order would make any difference to the stand of the Shiv Sena on CAS in Mumbai," party Member of Parliament Sanjay Nirupam told indiantelevision.com.

Meanwhile, when contacted, a ministry official said that it is highly unlikely that the government would go in for an appeal against the high court order. "But the court order has to be studied properly before we can spell out a future course of action," the official added.

Still, an upbeat Zee Telefilms vice-chairman Jawahar Goel and head of Siti Cable said, "The Delhi cable ops have decided in principle to start implementing routing all pay channels through boxes from 15 December to slowly educate the cable subscriber about CAS."

Though he indicated that the set-top boxes, needed to access pay channels, would cost a bit more (slightly over Rs. 3,000) than what they did, say, four months back, Goel said, "A final picture would emerge after another round of meeting of MSOs is held tomorrow."

According to a senior executive of Hathway Datacom, the government also wanted to know from the cable industry about their preparedness and opinion on CAS. "We conveyed to the government the situation of boxes, especially those which are lying in godowns," the Hathway executive added.

If the cable industry is to be believed, then all the MSOs put together, there would be about 700,000 boxes in the country.

If CAS is to be rolled out in the south zone of Delhi, as had been mandated earlier, then ideally approximately 350,000 boxes would be need if the demand is 100 per cent. But the cable ops feel that in the first six months or so, only 50 per cent of the cable homes are likely to go in for set-top boxes in the designated area in Delhi.

Those who attended today's meeting with the I&B ministry include Ashok Mansukhani from HTMT (INCablenet), Hathway Datacom CEO K. Jayaraman and the vice-president (north) S.N. Sharma, Vittal from Sumangli, Roop Sharma, independent cable operator and Cable Network Association's Rakesh Dutta and a representative from RPG, amongst others.

Still, what is interesting is that the Delhi cable ops and MSOs here are not clear what would be the pricing for pay channels if CAS is to be rolled out. While Goel said negotiations with broadcasters would be held over the next few days, National Cable & Telecom association president Vickky Chowdhry said that he'd go by the rates put out by pay broadcasters in July.

What happens if cable subscribers don't go in for CAS and would still like to get all the pay channels? Emboldened by the court order, the cable ops are in no mood to give anything free.

Is this the turn of some consumer interest group to move the court? A possibility that cannot be ruled out, some resident welfare associations of South Delhi said.

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