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Government tables CAS bill for approval

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Government tables CAS bill for approval

The bill for introducing the Conditional Access System (CAS) was tabled in the Lok Sabha yesterday, despite considerable opposition from within and outside the government.

As the two houses of Parliament now have only three days for passing the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2002, it looks like a tightrope walk. If not passed in this session, the bill will be taken up in the monsoon session. In an optimistic scenario, if the bill is cleared by the Lok Sabha after a debate on Wednesday and placed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, it could be passed by the Upper House on the last day of the session— May 17. However, since debates are normally long and the last day of the session is reserved for private members, Parliament is left with little time to make CAS happen this session.

Even as some MPs want that the bill must go to the Standing Committee before being passed, like in the case of the Convergence Communications Bill, Lok Sabha is debating the issue directly.

Some ministers and MPs, it is seems, are on the side of broadcasters in their opposition to CAS. Then there are others such as Law Minister Arun Jaitley, who point out that CAS is not realistic for India. At the time Mr Jaitley was the Information & Broadcasting Minister during 1999-2000, the CAS initiative had been put on the backburner.

In contrast, the present I&B minister Sushma Swaraj has been enthusiastic about CAS. Despite the stiff opposition to CAS, Ms Swaraj has managed to bring the bill to the Lok Sabha table.

The bill, if passed, will empower the government to mandate through notification, in a phased manner, installation of addressable system for viewing pay channels. CAS will enable cable TV viewers to get and pay for the channels they want, besides the basic tier of free-to-air channels.

While the basic free-to-air channels will come to viewers for a fixed monthly price, pay channels can be accessed through a set-top box as per the rates prescribed by broadcasters.

Source: Financial Express


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