Year since notification; high time govt clarify CAS on or off

This day, one year back, as per an earlier government notification, was when Indian homes were to experience addressability, aka conditional access system or confusion, anarchy and stupidity (depending on how you want to look at it). Three hundred and sixty-five days later, CAS is still to be implemented and has only got 'trapped' in newer controversies.

So much has been written about CAS till now that writing another piece looks like an exercise in futility. But considering the new developments, which we think are more aimed at aiding delaying a decision on CAS than resolving it, certain points need to be highlighted.

The first issue that needs to be brought out, which may upset a certain section of the cable industry, is that whoever is propagating introduction of Trap (a poor man's CAS with cheaper boxes, in layman's lingo) --- and that includes selective leaks to the media from sector regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India too --- in India in place of addressability through set-top boxes probably has a sadistic streak in him/her.

If in developed markets like the US --- an example that is being cited to push the theory about Traps --- only 20 per cent of the C&S homes have been 'trapped', what guarantee is there that in an unorganised market like India, it would be a viable and successful alternative? Experts whom spoke to, opined that in markets like the US, some success with Traps has been achieved because cable, unlike in India, are underground and chances of playing around with the Trap and the cable attached to it is less.

What's more damaging, criticism against a Trap is that it does not conform to Bureau of India Standards norms of finger printing, which would make hacking easy --- something that is unlikely to enthuse broadcasters who would have lesser control of re-distribution of their signals. Still, what is surprising is that a certain section of Trai is gung-ho on Traps.

And, those in the cable industry who think that maybe this technology would end all the ills in the industry may think again. Because any mention of Trap would send the industry and the government too, into a tizzy and some more man-days would be lost on discussing the pros and cons of Traps.

If a certain portion of the blame can be put on the doorstep of Trai, which was saddled with the broadcast and cable sector just before the general elections last year --- a political move, obviously, to get rid of a hot potato --- for delaying matters, the present government too, cannot be exonerated, though I&B minister Jaipal Reddy has learnt quickly from his predecessor and his mistakes.

The present Congress-led government is totally opposed to the introduction of CAS. The problem is that it is unable to come out openly and spell it out in so many words. Reddy has been attempting to handle the situation diplomatically, but a certain section of the industry (the cable industry) is not taking the hints. Can Reddy be clearer when he says that "any hasty implementation of CAS is ruled out"? And, this he has reiterated several times, before and after meeting delegation(s) from the cable industry.

This reluctance on the part of the government, or lack of adequate political indications, is another factor why Trai is sitting over its recommendations on various issues related to the industry, including CAS. The past one-year's drama of notification, de-notification and court cases relating to addressability, notwithstanding.

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