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CAS gets a Leftist tinge

28-May-2004
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CAS gets a Leftist tinge

The cable TV fraternity was already thinking of writing to Sonia Gandhi, when the dynamics of the new government were still fuzzy. But the draft is being fine-tuned now, on the lines of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the UPA government.

Earlier, independent operators were demanding introduction of the conditional access system (CAS). Now, cablewallahs are taking the ‘employment’ line, a favourite with the Left allies of this government. A memorandum is being prepared for UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy, and would-be Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, among others. The wish-list of the cable operators would have ‘employment’ written in bold. Incidentally, Mr Reddy has already indicated that CAS may be reviewed, of course after discussions with his “colleagues and allies”.

The thrust on employment in the common minimum programme document is clear. Among other things, it has said that the government would establish a national commission to examine the problems faced by enterprises in the unorganised and informal sectors and create a national fund for this purpose.

Referring to the CMP’s emphasis on reviving and restructuring sick units, a cable association member said that “this sector has shown tremendous growth and its interest must be protected”. President of Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) Roop Sharma, who’s spearheading this initiative, said: “The government must stop large corporates and foreign entities from acquiring small cable networks.” Around 15 lakh cable TV sector employees run the risk of losing their jobs if the government does not intervene, the letter is going to state.

The three-pronged strategy being suggested by cablewallahs: regularise industry and monitor pay channel pricing; stop acquisition by big players; help operators with better infrastructure. The moot point: Save us from becoming extinct!

According to Cable Operators’ United Front (COUF) secretary Ajeet Kacker, the biggest plea would be to help operators survive in the industry. However, the letter would also point out that over Rs 500 crore has been spent on CAS, and that the new government must set things right for the industry.

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