Television

Mumbai cable operators to seek audience with I&B minister

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MUMBAI: Mumbai based cable operators have expressed disappointment over the recent comments of I&B secretary Pawan Chopra that indicate that the government might soften its stand on the conditional access system (CAS) deadline of 14 July 2003.

 

 

In fact, several Mumbai-based cable operators who strongly support CAS have announced their intentions to meet the I&B minister RS Prasad in order to seek clarifications, express their reservations and concerns about various issues.



While speaking to indiantelevision.com, Sonali Cable proprietor Suvarna G Amonkar, a distributor of WIN Cable with nearly 200 affiliated cable operators, says: "I&B minister RS Prasad had promised to grant us an audience during our meeting at Mumbai's Hotel Orchid on 13 June 2003. Most probably, we shall be meeting the minister early next week (first week of July) and will present a charter of demands."

 

The charter of demands that Amonkar will present to the I&B minister include the following:



* The government must give assurances to the LMOs that their interests - areas of operations, responsibilities, investments in infrastructure and control rooms - will be safeguarded even post CAS. That the government issue licences to those cable ops who have been in operation for a pre-determined number of years is one suggestion. The cable ops are clear on one point though. They do not want "new entrants" to be allowed to start operations in the areas they "control".



* The MSOs must finalise agreements with the last mile operators (LMOs) and franchisees clearly indicating the commissions that will be given to the LMOs. Ideally, the MSOs should get 50 per cent of the revenues and the cable operators should get 50 per cent of the MSO share (25 per cent of total revenues), they aver. 



* Broadcasters must be open to providing signals to groups of cable operators who choose to align themselves under a separate entity.



Amonkar claims to be an ardent supporter of CAS. He admits that he is in a spot as the cable operators affiliated to him have several questions and he doesn't have answers for. Because neither the broadcasters or MSOs have taken him into confidence as yet, says. "The broadcasters and MSOs are responsible for this lack of clarity. The I&B secretary's recent comments are unfortunate and will end giving wrong signals. We will seek clarifications from the I&B minister himself," says Amonkar.



Mumbai Cable Operators Federation (MCOF) president Nandan Basu emphasises: "The recent comments of bureaucrats indicating that the government might go "soft" on CAS are uncalled for. There cannot be a soft CAS - there can either be full implementation or no implementation at all."



Basu adds: "If the government is not rigid about the 14th of July 2003 deadline, then the High Court interim ruling that cable operators can charge 10 per cent more on the cable rates applicable as of 31 December 2002 will get extended beyond 14 July 2003. Also consumers will refuse to pay the applicable rates and continue to either pay nothing or pay Rs 150. After 14 July 2003, the consumer might go a police station and register a complaint against cable operators using some weird premises or flimsy excuses."

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