Uncertainty prevails over the implementation of the controversial conditional access system (CAS) in New Delhi with the Centre on Wednesday calling for a review on the issue.
Information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after a meeting with chief minister Sheila Dikshit and BJP MP VK Malhotra that he has sought field reports from the Delhi government and would take a decision after that.
Earlier, Ms Dikshit and Mr Malhotra told reporters that CAS implementation in South Delhi has been “indefinitely postponed”.
Multi system operators (MSOs), however, have decided to continue with the implementation of CAS in Delhi and will, from Thursday morning, be encrypting the flagship Hindi entertainment channels - STAR Plus, Sony TV and Zee TV. This means that consumers who do not buy set-top boxes will not be able to view their popular TV channels. Earlier, MSOs had agreed to make these channels available on the free-to-air mode also till January 1 to give consumers a ‘transition time.’ They had encrypted the other pay-TV channels.
Said Hathway Cable & Datacom managing director K Jayaraman: “We understand from the information & broadcasting ministry that the Delhi state government has requested them to postpone CAS indefinitely. The ministry will make a field report and survey. The Delhi high court, anyway, has said CAS is on. We will be encrypting the channels at 10 am on Thursday.”
Added Ashok Manshukhani: “CAS is on in Delhi as per the Delhi high court. We are going ahead with the CAS implementation. We will switch off the three main Hindi entertainment channels in the free-to-air mode tomorrow morning. They will be available only to consumers who buy set-top boxes.” But the implementation of CAS will be tough if the government takes a strong stance.
Mr Prasad told reporters that he was “anguished” over the way MSOs and cable operators were pressurising the consumers to adopt CAS which was brought as a consumer-friendly measure. “This is a design to exploit and fleece. The government will not remain a silent spectator in such a situation,” he said, adding Ms Dikshit and Mr Malhotra had told him about the hardships being faced by the consumers in South Delhi where CAS has been made applicable since December 15.
According to Mr Manshukhani, MSOs met the I&B ministry officials on Wednesday and made it clear that pay channel rates would depend on the broadcasters. They were willing to pass on the benefits if the broadcasters came out with lower rates. The ministry wanted to know if MSOs could offer friendly rates to the consumers for the pay TV packages, Mr Manshukhani added.
When contacted, STAR India chief operating officer Sameer Nair said they had given their package and rate structure to the MSOs, but no CAS contracts have been signed as yet. “It is up to them to implement CAS. But they should ensure that it is done in the smoothest way. If a consumer is willing to pay for the boxes, it should be available. There should not be a situation when the MSOs and independent cable operators are not able to meet the consumer demand in South Delhi. Consumers should not be deprived off their popular channels for no fault of theirs.”