Even as government plans to introduce the Conditional Access System (CAS) Bill in the Rajya Sabha for discussion, broadcasters and multiple system operators are engaged in heated lobbying.
Broadcasters, on their part, are trying to make it clear that several complex issues need to be examined and sorted out before CAS could be made mandatory for pay-TV viewing. To further strengthen their argument a survey is also being selectively circulated to show that no country has successfully mandated CAS. According to them addressability should largely be left to market forces to determine and self regulate.
According to broadcasters one-way addressable analogue set-top boxes (STBs) will not be able to check under-reporting of subscriber base from cable operators. By not envisaging two-way addressable digital systems, CAS may create piracy problems and there is no system of checks and balances to audit the figures declared by the cable operators.
MSOs, broadcasters feel, will be able to alter the software on their computer systems to show only the number of subscribers they wish to declare. According to the them there needs to be a standardisation of computer software and open architecture access to prevent manipulation of figures.
Industry analysts are in the favour of creation of an office of Controller at the government level to audit a cable system’s subscriber base. Alternately, a fully independent third party could be formed to conduct the cable system subscriber audits.
Another issue of concern is the fixation of different rates for different states, cities and areas. How this would be determined is yet to be specified and could introduce a significant degree of uncertainty into the market. There are other problems related to pricing. How will price controls be determined, operated, reviewed and raised? According to analysts the government has to wrestle with these issues.
According to MSOs, broadcasters are lobbying hard to delay the introduction of CAS as they are afraid that the actual viewing numbers would be out in the market. They may not be able to price their channels arbitrarily high. The government needs to introduce CAS as it would enable consumers to watch the channels they want to pay for.