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Cable operators thank govt, while Broadcasters discuss loopholes in CAS

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Cable operators thank govt, while Broadcasters discuss loopholes in CAS

To thank the government, cable operators from all over the country met Information & Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday. This follows the government’s move to introduce the conditional access system (CAS), which would enable cable TV viewers to watch and pay for the channels of their choice. The Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2002, which seeks to incorporate CAS into the system, is likely to be tabled in Parliament on today.

In contrast, broadcasters, under the aegis of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), have pointed out the loopholes in the proposed addressability system. Ms Swaraj expressed surprise that broadcasters are not happy with CAS as it was them who sought a transparent system.

According to sources, even as the draft bill for CAS indicates that cable operators will determine which pay channels to provide to their subscribers, the government is considering to have a ’must provide’ clause for pay channels.

On pricing of free-to-air channels, the minister has told the cable operators that it would be done only after it is clear as to how many pay channels turn free-to-air. Also, the government may consider the request of cable operators to freeze the pricing of pay channels till CAS is introduced.

In the draft bill, however, there’s no mention of government intervention in fixing the prices of pay channels. It only says that “every cable operator shall publicise, in the prescribed manner, to the subscribers the subscription rates and the periodic intervals after which such subscriptions are payable for receiving each pay channel provided by such cable operator”.

On the free-to-air channels, however, the draft says that the government may specify the number of free-to-air channels to be included in the basic package. Different numbers of channels may be specified for various states, towns, cities etc. Also, the government may fix a maximum amount for the basic tier service.

According to sources the government is talking with the Consumer Electronics and TV Manufactuers’ Association (Cetma) and the government has been informed that that a basic box could be available at just Rs 1,500 in the country. According to Cetma, the price range of an analog set-top box could vary between Rs 1,500 and Rs 5,000.

Source: Financial Express


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