A rationalisation of subscription fees for cable television subscribers is on the anvil. The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has recommended notification of the maximum cost of a basic tier service — comprising both pay and free-to-air channels — in its Cabinet note on the amendments to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
The proposal, if cleared, will help ease the monetary burden for lower and middle class subscribers who are now forking out high cable charges. Notifying the maximum cost of a basic tier service will also ensure that the benefit of an addressibility system is passed on by the cable service provider to the viewers.
The I&B Ministry is basically pushing for a conditional access system (CAS) in the broadcasting sector to protect the interests of the broadcasting industry in the amendments to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act.
It has also suggested that it should be left to the market forces to take a decision on who would bear the cost burden of the set-top boxes and the pricing structure of pay or free-to-air channels.
However, with the Ministry's stance of non-interference, the crucial issue of who would bear the cost of set-top boxes or how it would be passed on to the consumer remains unresolved.
Cable operators have been contending that the consumers would have to bear the full cost of the set-top boxes. But whether the set-top boxes are to be installed after making an one-time payment or staggered payments remains unanswered.
The amendments make it clear that while an addressibility system would be mandatory for viewing pay channels, no additional device would be required for free-to-air channels.
The amendments have also proposed installation of addressable systems in a phased manner. In the first phase, these systems would be installed in the four metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
The Ministry has also not prescribed any specific technical parameters for the addressibility system. It has said that these should conform to the Indian standards as prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
The amendments also propose that the any violation of these changes would constitute a cognizable offence.
Source: Business Line