'Indian broadcasters' seek fresh CAS notification

NEW DELHI: In case people have forgotten, today was when CAS was supposed to have become effective as per the original deadline.

'Indian broadcasters' marked the day by making their 'unhappiness' at the government's decision to defer conditional access in the country known and demanding that the government issue a fresh notification for the early implementation of CAS.

Although NDTV, earlier a part of the group, was not signed on this time round, the others - Aaj Tak, Eenadu, Sahara, Sun TV and SAB TV - have petitioned the government to enforce the implementation of CAS by the earlier stipulated deadline of 15 July. In another joint communication to the government, the channels have exhorted the government to reconsider the postponement of CAS in favour of the viewers and the cable industry in the country. Among the points raised by the Indian broadcasters, apart from insisting on the government sticking to the original deadline, are -

* In case the same is not possible then it should be strictly implemented by 1st September and the government should ensure the Rs 72 cap on subscription fee in the intervening period. 

*The ministry must ensure that the pay broadcasters do not delay the announcement of their channels’ pricing as this would further delay the implementation of CAS, as has happened earlier. This will result in the delay in the distribution and setting up of set-top boxes, making CAS a flop show.

*DTH should not be allowed to flourish within the country at the cost of the cable business. The DTH operators should not be allowed to dominate the cable operators.

Alleging that the phased rollout stretched over a period of four months is being engineered by vested interests, and is not favourable for the cable industry in the country, the broadcasters say that the delay in the implementation of CAS is a direct fall-out of the foreign pay channels’ refusal to honour the government’s notification on the declaration of the pricing of the various pay channels by 15 June and the implementation of CAS by the earlier stipulated deadline of 14 July. 

Reiterating the stand they had taken a week ago, the group says the deferment of CAS is the government’s submission to the arm-twisting tactics of the foreign pay channels, and will render a serious blow to the growth of the Indian cable industry. The 'unavailability of set-top boxes' cited for the delay 'is completely baseless', say the broadcasters, as 'there are sufficient number of STBs available to meet the current demand'.

"Foreign pay channels are trying to stall the implementation of CAS in favour of DTH because of vested interests. DTH is acknowledged as a pro-broadcaster but anti-people and anti-industry service the world over, and If DTH is allowed to flourish, it would work against the interests of the country because it would create a monopolistic market and create an environment wherein it would be extremely difficult to bring about any sort of control or regulation on the programmes being aired by these channels. It will also deal a death blow to the booming cable industry and result in loss of job for millions of cable operators who have been instrumental in promoting the Indian television industry," the statement issued by the broadcasters says.

Last Friday, the broadcasters had issued a statement expressing concern at the "manner in which certain foreign broadcasters are bypassing the laid-down procedures and guidelines, and how the government continues to remain a passive spectator to the subject of de facto control as distinct from mechanical control through caps such as 26 percent cap on FDI in the broadcasting industry."

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