Pointing out that they propose to submit a memorandum to the newly-notified
regulator, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), over
the next few days, an independent cable operator said today, "Now
that a regulator is in place, we would raise the issue of monopoly
of the big players."
The other issues likely to be with TRAI include that of cross-services
restriction, choice to a consumer in choosing a cable operator and
putting cap on the advertising time on pay channels.
"Whenever we have talked about cross-service restriction,
the MSOs have shouted us down. But now, we will raise the issue
with TRAI," another cable op said.
By cross-service restrictions, the cable ops mean that either there
should be ban on broadcasters owning stakes in cable networks or
there should be a cap (on the lower side) on such holding to reduce
"vested interest" and preferential costing" taking
At the moment, two of the biggest broadcasters, Zee Telefilms and
Star India, have equity stake in cable distributing companies. While
Siti Cable is a subsidiary of Zee Tele, in the Rajan Raheja-controlled
Hathway Datacom, Star holds 26 per cent stake. Similarly, the parent
company of Sun group of channels also owns a cable network in South
India. Though the Hinduja-owned
InCableNet doesn't have any direct links with broadcasting owned
by the parent company, noises have been made by the Hindujas that
they have plans to launch satellite-delivered TV channels.
Asked about signs of rebellion in the ranks of the cable fraternity,
a senior executive of an MSO today lamented that this "disunity"
may spell doom for independent and local cable operators.
"Bahut dukh likha hain een cable operators ke taqdeer mein
(fate has lot of bad news in store for these cable operators),"
the MSO executive said on condition of anonymity.
A representative of another MSO sarcastically said that "unless
these independent cable ops go to TRAI and advise it on how to do
things," the industry would probably come to an end.
But, that the fear of big telecom companies getting into cable
service is playing on the minds of big and cable ops is evident.
Agreeing with indiantelevision.com's editorial under Comment and
also the report filed last week on TRAI, the head of an MSO said
that if the clauses of unified licence --- being discussed by TRAI
and the telecom players--- are read in conjunction with the latest
developments, then the picture would become clear.
"There is no doubt that it is just a matter of time before
telecom companies foray into cable services, which have now been
redesignated as telecom services," he added.
CAS NOT WITHIN ITS JURISDICTION: TRAI
the new regulator, which seems to have taken up its job in all earnest,
on Monday added a new twist to the CAS (conditional access system)
saga, saying deferring or letting the rollout continue is not within
Reiterating that it would issue a short consultation paper on CAS
soon, TRAI chairman Pradip Baijal was quoted by the Press Trust
of India (PTI) today as saying, ""The issue of continuing the service
is not my jurisdiction".
This was in response to a question posed by the agency whether the
consultation paper would tantamount to deferring CAS till the regulator
finalised and issued guidelines on the issue.
In a way, Baijal was not much off the mark as the role of the regulator
is recommendatory and a final decision on CAS would have to be taken
by the government on recommendations made by TRAI.
The decision on issuing a consultation paper comes amidst reports
that CAS would be deferred till the general elections. The Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government over the past few days
has been hinting that the general elections are likely to be held
between March and May, though no fixed time-table has been indicated
"We will issue a short consultation paper tomorrow", Baijal told
PTI after holding a series of meetings with officials concerned
on the issue. But he did not give details on the focus of the paper.
Baijal, who had put consumers' interest at top of his priority after
being given the new responsibility, was quoted in the agency report
as saying that he would give about 15 days for the various stakeholders
to revert with their responses.
From the time CAS was sought to be rolled out in South Delhi area,
after a November verdict on CAS by the Delhi high court, the issue
had thrown up various confrontations between the cable industry
and the consumers, represented by consumer groups.
A new case, filed by two parties, including a conglomeration of
50-odd consumer bodies in the country, is still pending a final
verdict of the Delhi high court. The court had observed that till
the next date of hearing on 5 April, the rollout of CAS should be