No agreement, but IBF, MSOs continue discussions

NEW DELHI: The meetings that the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) panel had separately today with some of the MSOs in Delhi over various issues relating to conditional access system (CAS) proved to be inconclusive, though both the MSOs and the broadcasters said it was "positive step" in the right direction as such meetings had never been held in the past.

According to information available with, the various MSO representatives have asked for a distribution margin around 70 per cent, something which did bother the broadcasters whose point of view was that these margins are much above global trends.

According to an IBF source, "Our aim is simple: dispel the perception that broadcasters are against CAS. Rather, such meetings now will be an ongoing process and broadcasters would like to sort out contentious issues with the cable industry. After all, we are all part of the same big industry."

The individual meetings went on for long and some more with big independent cable operators are also scheduled tomorrow. It seems that both the broadcasters and the cable industry want to go into tomorrow's government-piloted task force meeting on CAS with something to show.

In the last task force meeting held about 10 days ago, the chairman of the task force, Rakesh Mohan, joint secretary in the information and broadcasting ministry, had requested the broadcasters and the cable industry to sort out issues like distribution margins amongst themselves so that the panel could take forward the implementation of CAS to its logical end.

Pointing out that the talks today did not bring out things in black and white, a senior representative of an MSO told that when queried on the individual pricing of channels in a bouquet, the IBF panel is reported to have said that this was an issue that should be discussed with individual broadcasters.

The IBF source said, "Now these discussions should be held individually with broadcasters as the plans each broadcaster are different."

The broadcasters' stand has been that unless the pricing of free to air channels in the basic tier in a post CAS regime is defined, it would be difficult to arrive at individual pricing of channels in a bouquet.

Various bouquets are priced differently and in most of them there are some 'weak' channels that ride the package. For example, the Zee Music channel in the Zee Turner bouquet or National Geographic Channel in the Star bouquet or Animal Planet in the One Alliance are considered `weak' channels and the government has directed that when CAS is implemented the pricing of each channel should also be made public to be displayed by cable operators for the consumers' benefit.

Star India representative during one of the meetings with Siti Cable is reported to have said that a 70 per cent distribution margin is on the higher side as the global trend puts the figure around between 50-55 per cent.

An MSO is also reported to have opined that if individual meetings with broadcasters need to take place then a time-bound schedule should also be given as this process may be time consuming.

The MSOs' stand has been that unless the broadcasters sort out such issues they would be unable to firm up a business plan and order equipment needed for implementing CAS --- again a matter that was discussed during the last task force meeting.

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