I&B looking at legal options, studying status abroad of ads on pay channels

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: The government today sent out a clear warning that it was willing to u se all in its powers to go after "defiant" pay broadcasters who continued to "thwart" its attempts to introduce a conditional access system in the country.

Information and broadcasting minister ravi Shankar Prasad, expressing his "disappointment" at the stances taken by the likes of Star India and Sony Entertainment, said the government was well aware of its legal rights in such a case and if the broadcasters did not change their stances and become more "consumer-friendly", it would take suitable measures.

Prasad also said he had directed his officials to study media laws in other countries to verify what is the status of pay channels vis-a-vis advertisements. Though the minister did not spell out what action was being contemplated, the warning was obvious: toe the line or else...

Meanwhile, the fallout of yesterday's "fiasco" of a meeting on pay channel pricing was also felt in the corridors of power in the capital.

I&B ministry secretary Pawan Chopra was called to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) today by principal secretary to the PM Brajesh Misra for an update on the vexed issue. It is learnt that the PMO's office instructed Chopra to ensure "that the price line be guarded" at all costs. Chopra was closetted with Prasad for over three hours after that debating what was to be done.

In the event that errant pay channels do not indicate individual channel prices that are "consumer friendly", the ministry is reportedly considering invoking Clause 12 of its CAS notification which will mean that post-14 July, these channels need not be carried by the cable service provider.

And what of the pricing paper that was circulated yesterday? As far as the government is concerned, it has rejected it outright as not being serious in intent. And since it is an unsigned paper, it has no legal tender either is the government's contention.

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