Regulators

CAS continues to stump I&B ministry

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NEW DELHI: India's federal government is still in a spot over the implementation, rather non-implementation, of the conditional access system (CAS) in the cities of Mumbai and Kolkata - with both the metros steadfastly refusing to toe the official line on rollout from 1 September.

A senior information and broadcasting ministry official today admitted that Mumbai is too hot for the ministry to handle and a "political decision would have to be taken" by the senior most ministers in the government.

Pointing out that the the 7 September address to the cable ops of Mumbai by Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray would be nothing but a "clarion call for revolt" (against CAS), the ministry official said: "In the wake of such unofficial boycott, a political decision has to be taken by the prime minister or the deputy prime minister in consultation with the I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad."

But that can only happen when Prasad, along with I&B ministry secretary Pawan Chopra, returns from Venice after soaking in some sun, movies (the film festival is on there) and, possibly, some bilateral agreements related to the film industry and entertainment content.

The Left-oriented West Bengal government, too, is no mood to relent. In one of its missives to the I&B ministry, the state government has said that the centre should call a meeting of all the states where CAS is being sought to be implemented. It has also been learnt that Kolkata has said that it would watch the Delhi scene very closely before taking a decision on CAS --- to go ahead with it or abandon it.

This too has to wait the I&B minister's return.

Meanwhile, the feedback that the ministry has got from Chennai, where CAS was rolled out in a limited way earlier this month, is that "people are saying they were better off without CAS."

Some broadcasters too are realising that they may have got away lightly with other metros, but in Chennai the set-top boxes are moving too slowly and confusion reigns. "Our feedback is that about 5,000 boxes have been sold/rented over the last few days. But when you juxtapose this number against the cable subscriber base of over 1 million, the number of boxes out there looks ridiculously low," a senior executive of a pay channel said
today after returning from Chennai.

One hopes that a rejuvenated Prasad will come back from Venice and sort out the various controversies that have plagued the scheduled rollout of CAS in the country.

Meanwhile, Mumbai-based lawyers are of the opinion that the central government's dithering over the decision to postpone CAS (conditional access system) rollout in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata can be challenged in court.

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