Government bids to build case for dumping CAS

NEW DELHI: Even as the Centre is contemplates bringing in an executive order to denotify Delhi from the CAS rollout map again - and prepare a ground for total junking of addressability in the country - the cable operators and consumers are heading for a showdown in some parts of South Delhi.


Addressability was being implemented by the cable fraternity in South Delhi area, emboldened by a Delhi high court order, which had quashed denotification of Delhi, late last year.

According to a senior information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry source, a case study is being prepared so as to justify that CAS in its present form and the way it is being implemented is not-so consumer friendly. "But for an executive order to be passed (read promulgation of an ordinance), we have to have enough ground justifying it," the official said, adding a presidential order would override a court directive.

However, the I&B ministry would wait for a few days for the Delhi government field staff to submit its report on ground realities which is expected to affirm that cable ops "are blackmailing consumers in South Delhi" as pay channel rates are still fluid, ministry sources say.

"South Delhi's example would have to be water-tight so as to form the basis of deferring CAS in the country," the government official explained.

Even as this was happening, the cable fraternity, including the top multi-system operators (MSO) like Hathway Datacom, INCablenet and Siti Cable, met in the Capital to decide on the future course of action, which also includes the new cable subscription rates for non-CAS areas of Delhi.

Interestingly, the residents' welfare associations of South Delhi areas too held a meeting. The agenda is clear: resist any hike in cable subscription fee and forcible selling of set-top boxes (STBs).

It is learnt that the residents' welfare association (RWA) have said that they are not against CAS, per se, but are opposed to the way it is being implemented now. "In the absence of a clear-cut agreement between broadcasters and the cable operators, the consumer is being made to suffer", a representative of a RWA said, adding, "We'd like that to take care of such situations first a regulatory authority or a similar body should be put in place."

The cable fraternity today also put to vote the issue of supplying pay channels and cricket without the box. Though the 'no' faction was led by a slender margin of two votes, some cable ops alleged that the whole process had been manipulated. But the cable ops decided to stick to the stand of increasing rates in other parts of Delhi.

According to Cable Operator United Front (COUF) president Virender Gaur, the cable members have decided to consider the price hike by different pay channels and pass it on to the consumers.

Siti Cable head Jawahar Goel told that in the light of the "prevailing confusion" in South Delhi and elsewhere in the city, "most cable ops would continue to route pay channels only through boxes (meaning blackout for non-box homes), as also increase by approximately Rs 90 rates elsewhere."

Hathway's president (operations) for North India, S N Sharma, said, "We have no option but to increase cable rates in other parts of Delhi as the broadcasters have jacked up their prices. Moreover, we would continue to route pay channels through boxes."

This would mean that non-CAS homes in South Delhi would have to do without their daily does of saas-bahu serials, HBO movies and, may be, even cricket from Australia where Sachin Tendulkar is showing signs of coming back to form.

National Cable and Telecom Association president and Home Cable MD Vikki Chowdhry (who was supplying a few pay channels to non-CAS homes in South Delhi) has agreed not to play truant to the cause of the cable industry - but in a limited way.

"I don't agree with the stand of others, but would stop showing pay channels. However, cricket would continue to be shown in non-CAS homes too serviced by my network," Chowdhry said.

His network in South Delhi has been giving subscribers - including non-CAS homes - entertainment channels like Star Plus, Sony and Zee TV and also Star Sports and ESPN when the cricket matches are on in Australia.

COUF's Gaur said that the organisation's members would charge the following increased rates for consumers from this month:

* Star bouquet Rs 30 (effective out flow increased from cable operators per subscriber)

* Sony bouquet Rs 10 per subscriber per month

* Zee Turner bouquet Rs 20 per subscriber per month

*Ten Sport Rs 18 per subscriber

* ESPN-Star Sports Rs 8 per subscriber.

This increase would total up to Rs 86 per subscriber per month. " We understand the difficulties going to be faced by our subscribers, but we are confident they will understand that this hike is not due to cable operators as the real culprit are the broadcasters," Gaur said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government is no mood to give in to the arm-twisting tactics of the cable operators, as it has been dubbed. "We would not let the cable ops fleece consumers. Most cable operations are shady and we would take the help of the law if need be," a senior official in the Delhi government said.

In short, confusion in Delhi, including South Delhi areas, would continue for some more days. Unless the central government steps in after making a strong case to recommend to the President to promulgate an ordinance deferring CAS in the whole country.

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