C'AS and when it happens

MUMBAI:Ultimately, it was independent media auditor Meenakshi Madhvani from the audience who stole the show with her well timed quip at the CNBC TV18 organised panel discussions on 'That's Entertainment' at the J W Marriott last evening.

While panelists including I&B secretary Pawan Chopra, Star India COO Sameer Nair and SET Discovery president Shantonu Aditya debated the benefits of and choices available to the consumer thanks to CAS, DTH and broadband, Madhvani crisply pointed out that while all the vacillating policies on conditional access thus far had been initiated in the name of the consumer, it was the consumer who would ultimately have the say in accepting either technology. "Remember, the remote is finally in the hands of the consumer, for whose eyeballs the entire fight is about," she reminded the panelists, to applause from an audience comprising television and advertising professionals.

In an otherwise bland discussion, in which incisive anchor Anuradha Sengupta could get only optimistic and stoic responses from Aditya and Nair on the return of conditional access, Hathway Cable and Datacom CEO K Jayaraman provided the only vociferous note. "With CAS in indefinite abeyance and DTH already rolled out, we are facing a stiff competition, particularly in SEC A and B homes," he pointed out. "With CAS continuing to be in limbo, all we will be left with will be SEC C and lower down," he complained.

While the broadcasters (Zee Turner president Sunil Khanna along with Aditya and Nair) sounded unanimous that while the need for addressability continues, CAS was not packaged the way it should have been, Aditya said he was more bullish on broadband, hinting that this lternative platform was probably set to take off in the next couple of weeks.

Chopra himself, despite being cornered by questions probing the sagacity of first announcing and then withdrawing CAS, said that eventually multiple distribution platforms would become available in the country and that, the postponement was CAS was no loss of image for the ministry. "CAS is an integral part of the DTH model," he said, citing examples of other countries, and maintaining that Prasar Bharati's free to air DTH would also be a part of the spectrum.

Aditya foresaw at least 30 to 40 special interest channels entering the country, once CAS comes in, as also the entry of more multinational companies into the ground distribution business with addressability getting implemented in India.. 

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