The chaos that Conditional Access System (CAS) has become synonymous with continues on the issue of pricing of individual channels as broadcasters are vehemently opposed on any such move, whereas MSOs and cable operators are expressing their ire against broadcasters and the government.
Coming out of a meeting on April 7, the cable operators and MSOs were in a dejected mood. “It’s a shameful thing that the broadcasters have been boycotting the meeting. After so much consultation, now it’s clear that the government is trying to push DTH and wants to end the cable industry. The future of 17,000 cable operators and 15 lakh people employed are in doldrums,” lamented Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators Federation of India.
Cable operators were open in their criticism of the government, alleging a government-broadcasters collusion, where the former is leaving the fate of the cable operators at the mercy of individual broadcasters with whom they have to negotiate for pricing under CAS. “The government wants to control all the stakeholders except the broadcasters. They are being given a free hand in this matter,” said an independent cable operator.
The broadcasters, who were represented by N P Nawani, Secretary General, Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF), however, rubbished the allegations that the broadcasters were boycotting the meetings. “The broadcasters are being represented by the IBF. On their behalf, we have handed over a written communication about CAS to the government,” Nawani told exchange4media.
On the a la carte pricing controversy, Nawani said, “Price fixation is a derivative of the market forces. It will be unfair on the part of the government just to pick up the television industry and fix a price.”
Nawani also informed that IBF had raised the issue of under-declaration by MSOs and cable operators. “We said at the meeting that only 15 per cent of the total connections were made public, which nobody contested. How can the government ensure that after implementation of CAS, there will be suddenly 100 per cent declaration? Can anybody guarantee it?” he asked.
After the end of the fourth and final round of consultations with all the stakeholders, the ball is now in the government’s court. “We are working towards a solution. We will take appropriate action,” said S K Arora, Information and Broadcasting Secretary, in reply to queries.