Government mulls notification on STB offtake terms

NEW DELHI: Not satisfied with passing a law, the Indian government now wants to do micro-management of the implementation of the law. Especially when it comes to conditional access system (CAS), which has become a hot topic for debate all over the country with pro and anti CAS lobbies making merry.

The government is now proposing to issue a notification that will ensure consumers, who go in for set-top boxes (STBs) in a post-CAS regime, are not taken for a ride by the suppliers as also the cable operator who'll collect the security money in case boxes are taken on rent.

According to senior government officials, the I&B ministry is studying a formula whereby loopholes would be plugged by the government in the manner of provision of STBs on rent.

"In the event of STBs being rented by consumers, a time frame of the refund of the security deposit and the form of receipt (given to consumers) will be done by the cable operator as per a format specified by the government," a government official, having access to the CAS files in the ministry, told today.

The rationale behind the proposed legislative move, likely to be made public before 15 June, is that the cable operators would deal in a huge amount of money that would be collected in the form of security deposits (in case STBs are taken on rent) and there is a likelihood of the grievances of the consumers not being addressed once the money is paid.

To protect the consumers from being harassed by cable operators in the event a person gets transferred from one place to another and needs his refund, the rule would ensure a safe return of the security deposits as per the various schemes being floated by the multi-service operators (MSOs).

Since the proposed notification would also look into the issue of proper receipts being given by cable ops to consumers, the interest of the consumer would be safeguarded, government officials said, emphasizing the government is in top gear where education of consumers regarding CAS is concerned.

Though the ministry has written to the broadcasters that latest by 10 June details of pay and free to air channels would have to be furnished, the formal deadline for pay channels' individual pricing remains 15 June after which the government is unlikely to give any relaxation to the broadcasters.

Government officials said that the issue of unbundling of channels may be part of the proposed legislative move on STBs if a separate notification is not brought out to make the truant broadcaster fall in line.

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