Delhi cable ops vow to enforce CAS from 15 Dec.

NEW DELHI: Conditional access system, like Banquo's ghost, just refuses to go away. Just when everybody, including the government, thought it has been given a quiet burial, the issue has resurfaced with the cable industry, at least in Delhi, in a militant mood.


In a meeting of the mutli-system operators (MSOs) and some independent cable operators here today to discuss the future course of action, it was "unanimously decided" that from 14 December midnight all pay channels would be routed through set-top boxes (STBs). This was disclosed by a representatives of an MSO after the 120-minute conclave.

Buoyed by the Delhi High Court order that quashed denotification of the capital from the CAS rollout map, the cable industry is also thinking on the lines that it should factor in the retaining cost of inventory when boxes start to be sold again in the Capital.

Pointing out that the MSOs incurred some cost in holding on to the inventory (STBs) for a few months, Zee Telefilms vice-chairman and head of Siti Cable, Jawahar Goel, today told, "The boxes are now likely to cost approximately Rs 4,000 to a consumer."

This would include the activation cost, plus other sundry expenses incurred by the cable operators like paying eight per cent service tax to the government.

Today's meeting, held at Essel House (headquarters of Siti Cable in Delhi), was attended by representatives of MSOs like INCableNet, Hathway Datacom, Siti Cable and some independent operators.

The strategy being followed by the cable operators in the south zone of Delhi is to start educating the cable subscribers about CAS and the need for boxes, before the cable industry starts routing all pay channels through boxes from midnight of 14 December.

"Though we would not be advertising in newspapers, but scrolls and CAS-related information would start airing on the local cable operators' video channels," Cable Networks Association's Rakesh Dutta said.

Dutta, along with Siti Cable and two other individuals, had filed a case against the government on denotifying Delhi.

According to Dutta, "We don't need the government's mediation any more as CAS in Delhi would decide whether we are really under-declaring our base or the pay channels are over-charging for their services."

Roop Sharma, a non-cable operator person running a cable organisation (Cable Operators' Federation of India), feels that nobody can stop CAS from becoming reality. (Though, it'd be interesting to know what transpired when Sharma bumped into senior Star India executives at a History Channel party last evening and, reportedly, discussed CAS.)

Still, some issues need to be ironed out.

Not everybody in Delhi's south zone may end up getting a digital set-top box, if at all they opted for it. Dutta says that independent cable operators like him cannot afford digital boxes and would go for analog STBs, leaving them open to charges that such boxes can be hacked into.

Then comes the issue of prices of pay channels. The MSOs and broadcasters have not yet started negotiations for Delhi. Even today, Siti Cable's Goel pointed out that it has not yet been finalised at what prices pay channels would be offered to cable subscribers in South Delhi area.

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