Cable TV

A MAD look at CAS

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There was once a vibrant industry in cable TV land. The advertising market was blooming. Television channels were flourishing, courtesy the influx of TV commercials and subscription revenues from cable ops. Professionals wanted to work with these channels leaving jobs with large manufacturing companies; the smell of makeup and late nights were probably what attracted them.



Media planners had found jobs specially studying media consumption habits. A specialist called the electronic media buyer had cropped up whose core competence was getting a better buy from television outlets for advertisers who wanted to sell their products through the medium.

Production houses were churning out soaps, weeklies and game shows and were making money. Artistes had employment, technicians could keep their home fires burning. Cable TV operators were raking in millions from subscribers and offering employment to tens of thousands of youngsters who may have well joined the underworld and made their living out of ending others lives.

To top it all, consumers had oodles of entertainment at a very low cost. Everyone was happy in cable TV land. Yes there was some carping and a bit of scrapping, but overall everyone was happy.

Along came a diktat from the powers that be: instal CAS or get the stick and spend nights behind bars for committing a criminal offence. It was a fait accompli. And the gun was poked into the industry?s face. Move on or lump it.

Came the deadline and the cable TV operators in the four major metros blacked out the pay TV channels. And there was chaos in what was once a happy cable TV land. Not enough affordable set top boxes which would enable viewers to watch their favourite channels were available. Television screens were blacked out. And everyone went through agony not seen since the Spanish Inquisition.

Viewers were separated from their favourite daily slice of entertainment; their fantasy stroll into the lives of television stories they so identify with. Heart rending cries could be heard from consumers who could not bear not watching their Tulsis and Komolikas and Shanas and of course their Sachin Tendulkars. All they could watch was a channel run by the I&B ? a behemoth known as DD. And some free to air channels.

The black out went on for sometime. The pressure started being felt by everyone in the television chain. Husbands got bored and started beating their wives. And of course vice-versa. The Ramola Sikand line of sarees spawned by a certain vampish character suddenly had to be discontinued. Women across the length and breadth of the country dropped the Balaji brand of bindis and sindoor and went back to pre satellite channel norms. Youth who would stay at home to watch TV started staying out more often. They hung out and some got into the drug habit or sped around in cars knocking down commuters in the process. The accident rate shot up.

In cable TV land, blood was on the streets as channels chopped production budgets. Production houses slashed artistes costs. Actors were suddenly without confirmed assignments. Producers reduced the number of technicians on each show. Some laid off executive producers and creative directors. Some simply got into a more lucrative line of business: Paani Puri. A well-known TV director was spotted selling black market tickets outside a ramshackle cinema hall. An actor was seen peddling hashish at a traffic signal. And an award winning TV cameraman chose to become and usher in the same ramshackle cinema hall.

Television channels laid off professionals. MSOs started bleeding as the government dictated pricing structure for free channels made survival very difficult. Some of the cablewallahs joined the underworld. Some used each other for target practice as they tried to capture what they could of a dying business. The crime rate went up.

The underworld saw a reduction in the amounts it could charge for eliminating an enemy because there were so many youth willing to use the gun for a cup of tea. The cops were kept busy popping off these footloose youth.

The actor who was earlier peddling haashish started selling cheap adulterated brown sugar.

Consumers continued to be deprived of their basic privileges of being able to decide what to watch. They started hating the politicians vowing not to vote them to power ever again in future. Politicians rued the fact that the consumer who they initially said was the one they wanted to protect was the one who had been brutually hurt by CAS. And he had retaliated by hitting them where it hurts: the vote bank. It was a tough time for everyone in Cable TV land.

All because of the CAS diktat. And a poor implementation plan. A shoddy rollout strategy. CAS had its fallout. And would continue to bleed many for a long time to come.

Moral of the story: government listen to your constituency. And If you want to do something, do it right. The first time.

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