CAS rollout deadline not sacrosanct: I&B secretary Pawan Chopra

MUMBAI: Is the "non-negotiable" deadline of 14 July for the rollout of conditioinal access in the four metros about to be extended? Looks likely.



Information and broadcasting ministry secretary Pawan Chopra says "CAS will be enforced more vigorously in time but admits next month's launch date is not 'sacrosanct'."

Chopra made this comment in an interview to BBC World. The interview will appear on this Sunday's edition of India Business Report .

"I think we have a fairly good amount of consensus emerging on this," he tells presenter Manvi Dhillon. "We should not treat the date of 15th July as so sacrosanct, that next day everybody who does not have a set top box will be arrested. We will have a close look at the situation, and we will be flexible in the initial stages. As time goes on, the law will be enforced more vigorously."

Chopra also hints at the creation of a regulatory authority at a later stage. "The government had to fall back and had to play the role of regulator, but I am sure that the next thing we will be looking at is a Broadcasting Regulatory Authority."

The issue of CAS has been politically charged in India, with a number of those involved disagreeing on many issues. Chopra says: "If we are all sensible, all the stakeholders, the cable operators, the MSOs [multi-system operators], the broadcasters, I think we can do something which is useful for everybody in the long run. Useful for the customer, the viewer of TV, and I think it will lead to the upgradation of TV services in the country... When you change over to a new system, there are bound to be fears, and everybody is jostling for a better share of a future cake. We are not sure of the size of that future cake, despite all the hype and what has been reported in the media," he explains.

He adds that CAS implementation is a pressing need and will benefit consumers in the long run. "Over the last two years, the rates for cable TV have increased very sharply, almost doubled in the metros. The objective was to stop arbitrary price increases. So you separate the free-to-air channels and rent for cable service from the actual cost of pay channels, so people can see for themselves what they are paying for."

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