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CAS: Gloves off as IBF, cable frat hurl charges

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NEW DELHI: The game of ping-pong being played in the name of Conditional Access System (CAS) took another turn today with the broadcasters and cable fraternity hitting out against each other as the government reserved its verdict on the issue of rollout of addressability.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation today made it clear in a submission to the information and broadcasting ministry that all addressable systems should be mandated like CAS and providing a la carte pricing of channels would not be in the interest of consumers. Indiantelevision.com had reported on Wednesday that this was the stand the IBF would be taking on the CAS imbroglio.

While the government is yet to firm up its stand from the wide-ranging industry feedback, which, if taken into account, would push CAS rollout to fourth quarter of 2006, the Hinduja-owned IndusInd Media Communication Ltd has said that the government should honour the court verdict in the light of CAS being operational in Chennai since 2003 without any objections being raised by stakeholders.

The Delhi High Court on 10 March had directed the government to implement CAS in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi within one month's time, which is about to get over technically this month. But it needs to be seen when the government received a certified copy of the court order.

Interestingly, at a meeting that the government had with industry stakeholders today on CAS, the issue of registering of CAS operators with the government and the whole process of doing it, is likely to add to the delay.

A new sequencing of CAS rollout submitted by Siti Cable at the meeting, according to government sources, states the date of implementation should 14 November 2006 with the time in between used for getting ready for a CAS-enabled regime.

The IBF's submission has not only created more confusion, but has enraged a certain section of the cable industry too.

At one place in its letter to the I&B ministry, the IBF has said that the government should stop the cable industry from charging huge amount of carriage fees, which raised the hackles of cable ops present during today's meeting.

In a separate submission to the ministry, the Delhi-based National Cable & Telecommunications Association has, in turn, requested the government to direct the pay broadcasters not to play tough.

"If the pay channels demand more time for the implementation of conditional access system in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, then it is imperative that they must be directed to immediately stop collecting monthly subscription from the cable service providers till CAS comes into force," NCTA has said.

Though the NCTA letter exhorts the government to "exercise its powers" and direct the pay channels to declare rates of their individual channels and fix an upper limit for pricing of individual; channels and bouquets, the I&B ministry representatives at the meeting today did not utter any word on these issues.

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