The task force meet on conditional access held today, once again,
failed to arrive at a consensus on the issue of pricing of the basic
tier and the parameters taken to arrive at various figures being
The chairman of the task force is understood to have conveyed to
other members, specially cable ops, that if there is no unanimity
on the pricing issue in the meet tomorrow, then the government would
have no choice but to go ahead with the figure cobbled together
by the finance ministry- Rs 45.90 (exclusive of local and entertainment
taxes) --- even if certain sections feel the figure is far removed
from ground realities.
The government has also told all stakeholders that the details
of costs, backed by relevant documents, should be submitted for
a final round of hearing on the cost issue by 11 am tomorrow.
The frustration and confusion in the task force is evident from
the fact that a survey undertaken by an independent body- Becil/ORG
Marg- too has not been able to bring smiles on everybody's face.
Rather the report done at the behest of the government and the industry
was today literally shredded to pieces by the cable operators in
the task force.
According to Rakesh Dutta, an independent cable op and a task force
member, "The way things are moving, it is becoming increasingly
difficult to arrive at any consensus. The cost of the basic tier
being suggested by the government and others would not be acceptable
to cable ops who'll have no option but to down shutters and suspend
cable services." Other cable operators also echoed similar
Some of the figures and data presented in the survey are quite
contrary to what the cable industry has been representing, it seems.
For example, on the issue of cable ops use using standardised equipment,
the report states that in cities like Delhi and Kolkata mostly local
equipment sans the ISI mark are used, while in Mumbai in certain
pockets branded products are used.
The survey, according to some figures made available to
indiantelevision.com, states that a franchisee cable operator in
Mumbai on an average has 2,555 subscribers per sq. km, while the
corresponding figures in Delhi is 1031, Kolkata 1266 and Chennai
It seems the ORG-Marg conducted survey for Becil is highlighting
the fact that cable operators do have large subscriber bases, but
their cost is not much as being proclaimed. Reason: standardised
equipment is not used by all. In case of Chennai, for example, the
report states that no details were forthcoming where equipment and
their standardisation was concerned.
Though some representatives of broadcasting organisations did raise
doubts over the authenticity of the survey and its findings, the
doubts were laid to rest quickly as the chairman is understood to
have said that the terms of reference for the survey was limited
and decided upon earlier.
Interestingly, the lone person representing free to air channels
in the task force, Sahara TV president Mahesh Prasad, raised an
important issue: carriage fee for free to air channels in the basic
Prasad, rightly so, pointed out that post-CAS it should be ensured
that free to air channels don't have to pay carriage fees (mostly
to MSOs) considering the minimum number of channels in the basic
tier is being specified at 30.
Though the issue did not receive the attention it should have,
in days to come carriage fee would rear its head as channels would
jostle with one another to occupy limited bandwidth and capacity
of an average TV set to receive the number of channels.