Cable TV

Delhi cable ops get mixed response from politicos on CAS petition

NEW DELHI: The cable fraternity today went before the politicians to make a spirited case for implementing the conditional access system . They were snubbed at one place, while at another assurances were given that CAS would get implemented.


A delegation of cable operators from Delhi --- the city where the cable fraternity is most active amongst the four metros ---- was rebuffed this morning by Madan Lal Khurana, former chief minister of Delhi and a senior member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the coalition government in India, when told that CAS would be consumer-friendly.

According to Roop Sharma of Cable Operators Federation of India and Vikky Choudhry of the National Cable & Telecom Association, despite representations to the contrary from the cable operators of his so-called constituency in Delhi, Khurana was adamant that CAS would not end up being pro-consumer.

Sharma said that "Khurana was speaking the language of the broadcasters , which was sad."

The delegation of cable ops had gone to meet Khurana, a vehement critic of CAS, to impress upon him that CAS is good and the issue should not be politicised. However, Khurana, as Choudhry pointed out, kept on insisting that in an election year CAS may turn out to be like the onion issue, which reportedly was the cause of BJP losing power to the Congress in the state of Delhi.

However, a short distance away from the meeting with Khurana, the cable operators delegation found succour when former information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj who assured them that CAS would become a reality ---something that even God cannot say with certainty in the highly politicised

atmosphere, as the joke goes in Delhi.

Meanwhile, in the memorandum to Khurana, both COFI and NCTA have expressed their "disappointment" over the politician's "indifferent attitude to the problems of the cable operators and implementation of CAS in the cable TV industry."

" We understand from your statements as given in various newspapers, that your main concern with regard to CAS is whether the interest of the consumers will be safeguarded. We wish to assure you that we share the same concern. CAS is a universally accepted and implemented methodology for administering pay TV channel revenues all over the world and even in under-developed countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It is evident that you have not been correctly informed about the complete implications of CAS. We wish you to know the system well before attempting to down rate it," the memorandum said.

Taking a pot shot at the broadcasters, something that has become the norm of the day since CAS was introduced in the Indian lexicon, the memorandum to Khurana further said, "The broadcasters are afraid of CAS as it would mean a dip in their revenues, subscription particularly, of their not so popular channels. So in order to delay and prevent the implementation of CAS and by defying government regulations, they are resorting to bundling and tiering of channels at much lower rates, not giving a fair opportunity to the subscribers to choose what they desire."

Making a case for bringing in legislation to rein in the pay channels, the memo stated that the pay channels are earning through subscriptions as well as through advertisements. "In order to give good value for money, the pay channels should be made to restrict their ad-breaks to a total of 0.3% of every 1440 minutes of programming," the memo stated, adding that a price regulatory body needs to be established under the Cable Television Network Act 1995 to put a ceiling on the rates declared and to control any future price hikes by the broadcasters.

But the problem here is that a certain section of politicians are refusing to listen to the cable fraternity and are campaigning against CAS, the same way as a certain set of politicians had earlier refused to see the broadcasters viewpoint and had heralded that CAS is the best thing to happen to Indian television.

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