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Broadcasters remain divided on CAS

12-June-2004
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Broadcasters remain divided on CAS

Differences continued to remain among the pay broadcasters on the implementation of the conditional access system (CAS).

While the broadcasting regulator, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI), is of the view of making this mandatory, some of the top broadcasters such as Star, Sony and Discovery felt that this should be made voluntary.

At a meeting to discuss the consultation paper put out by the TRAI on CAS, the Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Telefilms was amongst the minority, which favoured making CAS compulsory, in order to ensure that the roll out happens in a uniform manner.

The broadcasters also differed on the issue of offering content to various platforms. While Zee felt that the terms and conditions offered by the broadcasters to the cable service provider to carry its channels should be applicable to direct-to-home (DTH) and broadband operators. Other pay channels, however, did not endorse this view and said that these are individual contracts between the service provider and the broadcaster.

Broadcasters also did not offer a solution to the regulator on the predatory pricing being practised, whereby, the individual price of the driver channel is almost equivalent to the total bouquet price.

"There is a case pending before the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on the issue. We will await its judgment," the official added.

Among the other issues discussed today was the cap on advertising time on pay channels. The broadcasters felt that if the advertising time on channels were restricted, the subscription rates would automatically go up.

"In several other countries, there is a demand to lift the advertising time restrictions. Also if the number ads on a particular channel goes up, the consumer would automatically move from that channel," said an official from a pay broadcaster. The industry felt that self-regulation on airtime was a better option.

On the issue of inter-operability of set-top boxes (STBs), which means that one does not have to change the STB when the cable operator changes, broadcasters were told that this is an expensive proposition.

"The cable industry is of the view that inter-operable STBs would be costlier," said sources. The other issue discussed was piracy under the CAS regime, an issue of concern for Star.

This is not the first time that pay broadcasters have expressed their differences. Last year too, the divergence of views between the various stakeholders led to the shelving of CAS.

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