Television

Pay channels say they will remain 'pay'

NEW DELHI: Star India today conveyed to the government-piloted task force on conditional access system (CAS) that it would take another three to four weeks time to finalise its strategy for a post conditional access regime, while the cable operators assured that adequate number of set-top boxes (STBs) would be available in the metros on and after 14 July.

The government (read the information and broadcasting ministry) on its part allayed fears expressed in some quarters that the CAS rollout deadline may be deferred due to political pressure building up in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)---- as reported in a section of the media --- that leads the present coalition Indian government.

Contacted by indiantelevision.com, Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea, one of the four broadcasters who attended today's meeting here, admitted that he had told the task force Star would need some more time to finalise its strategy for a post CAS regime. However, he still expressed his reservation on the assurances on STBs given by cable ops at the meeting.

The representatives of companies like Star, ESPN-Star Sports and Zee Telefilms, according to sources in the task force, also said that their respective pay channels would remain so, while Sahara TV president Mahesh Prasad said that Sahara Manoranjan would continue to be a free to air channel even after CAS is implemented.

Yesterday, the broadcasters had a meeting where it was decided that the pay channels would remain 'pay'. A group of broadcaster representatives would meet the additional secretary in the I&B ministry Vijay Singh tomorrow.

But the issue of set-top boxes (STBs) kept coming back at today's task force meeting that had been called to do a reality check on the CAS preparedness of various stake holders of the industry.

One of the independent cable ops on the task force, Rakesh Dutta is reported to have asked Star India about the number of households it gets paid for in the metros. When being told the subscription money comes for over a million houses, Dutta is understood to have quipped, if that is taken as the benchmark, then the cable industry would make available one million STBs in the metros.

Those who attended today's meeting, chaired by a joint secretary in the I&B ministry in the absence of Rakesh Mohan, included representatives from ESS, Sahara TV, Hathway, INCableNet, Siti Cable, Zee and independent cable ops from Kolkata and Delhi, amongst others.

However, one of the participants, according to the sources, left broadcasters with something to chew on when he said that most of the time task force meetings are all about STBs and their availability, while the issue of individual prices of pay channels is never discussed in detail.

This particular member of the task force also asked whether there is any validity on the deadline for broadcasters to announce the price of individual pay channels. Most broadcasters, according to the sources, kept mum on the issue refraining from spelling out details on the issue.

Questioned on this matter, one of the directors on Zee Telefilms board and a younger brother of Subhash Chandra, Jawahar Goel, told indiantelevision.com after attending the meeting: "Zee has already announced its prices of the bouquet and would now wait for others to come up with the individual prices of pay channels in their respective bouquets before Zee does the same."

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