Making conditional access system (CAS) mandatory for viewing of
pay channels was the most important piece of legislation to be passed
by Indian Parliament in 2002, though it came after several hurdles.
On 7 May 2002, the Cabinet passed a bill in the Lok Sabha (lower
house) seeking to amend The Cable Television Networks (Regulation)
Act 1995. Cable TV operators would have to transmit or retransmit
programmes of any pay channel through an addressable system. For
the free-to-air channels that were to form part of the basic tier,
the government would decide the minimum number of channels and the
maximum rate that cable operators were to charge viewers.
And on 15 May, the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill,
2002 was passed through voice vote by the Lok Sabha after a marathon
debate that lasted three hours.
However, hectic lobbying by a section of politicians and broadcasters
delayed the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha (upper house).
Finally on 10 December, it won overwhelming support in the Rajya
The credit to bring legislation in for CAS must go to then information
and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj. Multi system operators
welcomed CAS which they believed would change their fortunes as
they were squeezed in between broadcasters asking for more payout
and last mile operators who were under-reporting their actual subscribers.
Independent cable operators also saw this as an opportunity.
The complexity of implementing CAS would only surface in 2003 as
it would require massive investments and seeding of CAS boxes. In
2002, it was seen by the MSOs and independent cable operators as
a victory for them.
Sony Entertainment Television India also had reason to celebrate
as it bagged the exclusive cable and satellite TV rights for live
telecast of ICC cricket tournaments to be held from 2002 to 2007
covering the Indian subcontinent. The cost: a whopping $ 208 million
in the biggest ever licensing deal in Indian broadcast history.
Sports broadcasting saw a new entrant with the launch of Ten Sports
in April. The channel was immediately in the limelight as it had
bagged the exclusive terrestrial and C&S telecast rights to
the FIFA soccer World Cup for a piffling $3 million. Sports properties
would thus get fragmented, a situation that ESPN Star Sports had
wanted to avoid when they set up the joint venture.