Government will ensure smooth CAS rollout in four metros: Prasad

NEW DELHI: The Indian government wants to ensure a smooth rollout of conditional access system (CAS) in the first phase in the four metros --- maybe in the adjoining areas too --- before expanding it in other parts of the country, despite several requests from far-flung places for CAS to be implemented in those cities, India's information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today.


"I agree on day one of CAS implementation all cable homes (in the metros) will not opt for the boxes and market estimates put a figure of 25 per cent who might do so. So the government will ensure a satisfactory implementation in the first phase before the facility is extended to other parts of the country, Prasad said during a wide-ranging interview to today.

Demand for regulatory authority 'sinister move' to frustrate CAS

Dwelling on the demanded need of a regulatory authority to be in place before CAS is rolled out, Prasad said that such a demand was part of a "sinister move to frustrate" the rollout of CAS and the "subsequent benefit" that will accrue to consumers.

Pointing out that the government is not against a regulator per se as is being demanded by a certain section of society and the industry, including some consumer organizations, a combative Prasad said, "Things first have to be in place before a regulator can come into the picture and that is what is happening in the case of CAS."

According to the minister, the issue of a regulatory authority is a larger one that will have to be addressed at various other levels, including political, before a decision can be taken.

In this regard, while emphasising that he has always been for least intervention and minimum government control, Prasad said the government did not want to intervene (in the issue of cable TV service) and thought the "problem of addressability would be addressed" by the players themselves. But the infighting amongst the players forced the government to intervene and now it will play its role of a monitor to the hilt to ensure that CAS turns out to be consumer-friendly.

No cross-service restrictions

The minister also dismissed talks of government considering cross-service restrictions.

"At the moment, the government is trying to be a bridge between the cable operators and broadcasters. Once the CAS rollout is complete, the government would be open to take into consideration such suggestions (of cross-service restrictions)," Prasad explained.

Asked if the government stand on CAS is legally tenable if somebody moved the courts against CAS implementation, Prasad said that "legally we stand on a strong wicket."

However, sounding note of caution to those stakeholders who may be trying to delay the CAS rollout from 14 July, Prasad said, "The government is aware of its powers in law and so am I. It is my request to all stakeholders that everybody should come together to help in a successful rollout of CAS that would be beneficial for the consumers."

Dwelling on issues like FTV being allowed a dual feed so that those programming like a lingerie show can be shown on the pay mode, while the free to air FTV would have to take into account Indian sensibilities, Prasad said there are no such immediate moves on a dual feed. "The issue of adult fare on television will have to be addressed later," he added.

The I&B ministry would soon set up a task force to look into the issue of FM radio and the ways in which grievances of private players can be addressed.

"The radio revolution is waiting to happen in the country and the task force would look into such issues as also the problems of the private players who are themselves to be blamed having bid very high for licences in the first round of privatization," Prasad said, adding that he would like to start the second round of privatization on a "clean slate".

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