Television

Govt tells broadcasters, MSOs to ready for CAS

NEW DELHI: Political uncertainty over conditional access systems (CAS) notwithstanding, the government today made the right noises and, reportedly, conveyed to broadcasters and multi-system operators (MSOs) to go ahead with preparations for CAS' rollout.

Zee Telefilms vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said, "The information and broadcasting ministry has conveyed to the broadcasters, including us, that we should continue with our preparation for the implementation of CAS. It seems that the Prime Minister has okayed the rollout as notified."

SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta echoed Goel wehn he said that the CAS rollout was on schedule.

According to Goel, Zee Tele's cable arm, Siti Cable, and Hathway, in which Star has 26 per cent equity stake, would hold joint road shows starting in a few days time to educate the consumers about the set-top boxes, the benefits and the various rental schemes."

Goel also said that the effort on the part of the MSOs would be to seed as many boxes in the market as possible and take advantage of the tax sops extended by the government on imports of boxes till 31 July.

The I&B ministry, in turn, is awaiting the broadcasters to come to it with new pricing for channels that would be more consumer friendly.

However, a senior executive of Star India said that the rates given earlier to the government are unlikely to change. What the company may do is come up with promotional schemes to suit the different pocket size of consumers. The details of the schemes, however, were not revealed.

INDIAN BROADCASTERS TO MEET POLITICIANS

With CAS having become a political issue, broadcasters are meeting politicians of various hues. It is also expected that some sort of announcement may be made on the subject at a three-day meet at Raipur of the top brass of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the multi-party coalition government in India.

"The Indian broadcasters would meet Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dixit to apprise her of the ground realties on CAS," Goel said, pointing out that a few days back they had met another staunch critic of CAS, former chief minister of Delhi Madan Lal Khurana.

The likes of Khurana and Dixit have been staunchly opposing implementation of CAS in Delhi, which goes to polls later this years. So much so that Khurana had even petitioned the Prime Minister to exclude Delhi from the rollout list to be included after the elections are over.

The move on the part of the Indian broadcasters to meet politicians gains significance as the Prime Minister's Office-brokered truce between the various stakeholders of the industry seems to be falling apart with both cable operators and broadcasters turning back on their earlier promises. While the broadcasters have said they will be able to waive the subscription fee for only a month per zone, and not four months as originally agreed, the cable operators want the subscription fee for free-to-air channels to be raised from Rs 72 to Rs 180.

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