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CAS: Government to revert to Delhi HC next week

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NEW DELHI: The government is likely to revert to the Delhi High Court with a status report on CAS' rollout early next week even as the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has raised several queries on addressability's efficacy.

"A senior official of the information and broadcasting ministry admitted that it has to go back to the court with a feedback on CAS, but said it's timing is still not clear.

"One month for us would be calculated from the day we received a certified copy of the court order. As on 10 March, a verbal order was passed," the official said.

Still, the official also added that the court would have to be apprised of

the progress on CAS front and "it would be done." With diverse signals emanating from the industry stakeholders, the government is slightly confused, the official said.

However, the deluge of facts and figures relating to CAS and various time lines proposed by stakeholders also gives the government some breathing space.

On 10 March, the Delhi High Court directed the government to implement CAS in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai within a month's time. The judgment came on a petition filed by some MSOs, including INCablenet and Hathway.

While a large section of the cable fraternity has been pushing for quick

implementation of CAS, a section of broadcasters and consumer organisations want a certain comfort level before CAS is rolled out.

IBF AGAINST PRICE CONTROL UNDER CAS

Meanwhile, the IBF in a submission to the government has said that there should not be any price control in a CAS-enabled regime and the issue of piracy should be addressed as a priority.

"Under the Trai (sector regulator) recommendations to government for CAS implementation, presented on 1 October, 2004, it was recommended that there should be no price control in addressable markets. In view of this, we believe that for CAS notified areas, there should be no price fixation," the IBF letter states setting the cat amongst the pigeons (read the cable operators).

The letter, a copy of which is available with Indiantelevision.com, drops broad hints that pay broadcasters would not give a la carte price for consumers --- something that has been in demand for over a year now during confabulations on CAS.

"Broadcasters are whole sellers to cable operators as the consumer price for cable TV is fixed by the operators," IBF has said, adding all pending litigations and outstanding dues involving the cable industry must be resolved before CAS is rolled out.

Hinting that the claims of MSOs and cable ops on availability of set-top boxes might be exaggerated, the IBF goes on to state that effective steps should be taken to ensure that in the notified areas, adequate number of boxes is available with MSOs and last mile operators to cater to the demand.

"There should be no instance that consumers want to install STBs and

MSOs/LCOs are unable to provide them. MSOs/LCOs would also need to ensure that there is proper coordination between them and their LCOs. The MSOs/LCOs should provide a detailed STB implementation plan," the IBF letter says.

The broadcasters have also urged the government to ban carriage fee, which is demanded by cable operators and also given by most major broadcasters whether free to air or pay.

"The IBF members are of the view that the government should make sure that cable operators not demand carriage fee from the broadcasters… in view of the fact that they collect subscription revenue from the subscribers," the letter states.

Another point raised by the IBF is that since CAS is being mandated by the government, unlike in other countries where market forces bring about its rollout, other addressable systems like DTH, IPTV and broadband should also be similarly mandated to create "a level playing field" for those platforms.

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