I&B readies to face Parliament on CAS, Star News

NEW DELHI: Maybe it's the lull before another storm.

While the Indian broadcasters meeting with Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit, today, was cancelled and rescheduled to next week, information and broadcasting ministry officials were busy with preparing Parliament questions, some of them on CAS (conditional access system).

Saturday was comparatively quieter otherwise.

The government and the ministry are pushing ahead with the 1 September rollout of CAS, but it all depends whether the political will is there to implement it, especially with Delhi elections just round the corner.

"Let's get over with it. We've had enough of wranglings and debates over CAS and its rollout," Zee Telefilms vice-chairman Jawahar Goel said today, indicating that even the Indian broadcasters, probably, don't want to further queer the pitch as long as the government manages to implement the area-wise rollout of addressability in the four designated metros.

The government has been thinking on a new piece of enabling legislation with an eye to rein in pay broadcasters - some of them are still to submit their prices to the government or for the consumers' benefit - but the technicalities involved has been dissuading factor. At least till now.

The flip side is enacting a legislation, which now would have to sport Parliament's okay as its reconvening for the monsoon session on Monday, may just give the government a face-saving exit after its bull-headedness on implementing CAS. This because none of the public interest litigations that had been threatened have seen the light of the day.

Still, media is likely to hog a lot of Parliament's time, considering that the esteemed parliamentarians have a penchant for taking up issues that are in the news.

Though on the opening day, Monday, no business is expected to be transacted in Parliament as that's the day when respects are paid to parliamentarians who have expired, Thursday may see some action when the Lower House or Lok Sabha discusses matters related to the information and broadcasting ministry.

For the record, there are 11 questions lined up on CAS on the opening day of the session starting 21July. Of these, two are starred queries (which means the minister will have to field further queries that are posed to him) and nine unstarred.

On Thursday in the Lok Sabha 29 MPs have come together to put up another query on CAS, wanting to know all about it, including the availability of set top boxes and whether the prices of cable subscription would increase or not. If Hindujas are to be believed, then HTMT has already got in 50,000 set-top boxes with few thousands more by Zee Tele's Siti Cable, as have some other multi-system operators (MSOs).

As a senior executive of an MSO pointed out, "Boxes are not really the problem because not everybody in the designated areas in the metros would go in for the boxes. The number of boxes that are in the country should be enough to see through the first few weeks. The problem is we still do not know whether CAS is happening or not."

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