Television

Dual illumination will lead to broadcaster-MSO disputes: Hathway

MUMBAI: The government's decision to implement the conditional access system (CAS) by way of dual illumination has created problems for the multi-system operators (MSOs) such as Hathway Cable and Datacom who have expressed reservations about the system.

 Officials of the Rajan Raheja owned Hathway Cable and Datacom, in which Star India has a strategic 26 per cent stake, have told the information and broadcasting ministry that the dual illumination process will complicate issues. They say that the plan is implementable only if all the MSOs and cable operators set up a parallel cable from the head end up to each subscribers house. One cable would have to carry all the pay channels unencrypted and one would have to carry the pay channels in an encrypted form. This would be impossible to implement in lieu of the cost and time constraints, they add.

The bone of contention being that in such a scenario, the cable reaching the subscriber's home must carry the pay channels both in the unencrypted and encrypted mode. However, Hathway officials claim that it is important to note that the entire cable TV network consists of a single cable interconnected from point to point albeit at various levels - trunk, distribution, last mile amongst others. Hence, each subscriber has only one cable coming into his home that carries the entire signal to him, add the officials.

While speaking to indiantelevision.com, Hathway Cable and Datacom vice president Neeraj Bhatia says: "A subscriber who procures the box will still continue to get all the pay channels in an unencrypted mode also. Hence, all the pay channels will still be seen by such a subscriber irrespective of the choice of channels submitted by him. Hence, most people who will procure the box will not actually subscribe to any pay channel."

Adding that this norm is some kind of a piracy, Bhatia says that it will also lead to greater disputes between the broadcasters and MSOs on account of the payments due to broadcasters from such subscribers. "MSOs will not be able to pay any broadcaster for such a box subscriber since the subscriber may not have opted for any channel and therefore will not be entitled to pay any charges. But broadcasters may feel otherwise."

Bhatia also added that the dual illumination system cannot be implemented in an analog system as it would be incapable of carrying the minimum number of stipulated channels - namely 30 FTA channels; 35 pay channels in unencrypted mode and 35 pay channels in an encrypted mode. "Most networks have the capacity to carry only between 67 and 80 channels. A digital system will be able to implement this plan since it sends its pay channels in a compressed form but the same is not true for analog," says Bhatia.

Bhatia also feels that the area-wise rollout doesn't make sense due to overlap issues. "It is not possible to clearly demarcate cities such as Mumbai or Delhi," adds Bhatia saying that genre wise rollout is the best option.

Bhatia feels that all these issues could have been averted if the pay channel broadcasters had declared their individual channel prices at the earliest in order to evade any such unfeasible option. "This would have also enable the MSOs to accurately work out the number of STBs required in the initial stages. Now, everyone is going by their own 'guess-timates' and playing a cautious game," adds Bhatia.

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