Even as the uncertainty over the fate of the conditional access system (CAS) rollout in Delhi looms large, the Centre is fine-tuning a legislation to set up an interim regulator for the television broadcasting sector.
The interim watchdog—a stop-gap arrangement till a permanent mechanism is put in place—will have the prime responsibility to monitor the cable distribution business.
Although the regulator will not have licensing and rule making powers, it will oversee solving of conflicts among various stakeholders.
The regulator will also be mandated to look into issues such as pricing, tariff disputes as well as some aspects of advertisements and content.
“We are in the process of preparing a draft legislation to this effect. It should be ready soon,” said a government official.
The official pointed out that the regulator’s need was felt as a result of the confusion created over the implementation of CAS.
This is the second attempt by the government in the last five years to introduce a comprehensive Bill to govern the broadcasting sector.
The last Broadcasting Bill was introduced in Parliament by the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy in 1997.
The Bill was not pursued in view of the introduction of the Communication Convergence Bill, which had the provision for setting up a panel for media content regulation.
Meanwhile, the government today indicated that CAS rollout will have to be postponed if the report of the Delhi government on it implementation is found unsatisfactory.
“When a decision on the rollback is taken, there should be sound reasons behind it. We will be able to take a stand, based on the report from the Delhi government,” the official said.
The ministry sources also said the government was weighing various options including a complete rollback of CAS or postponing it until a suitable time.
The government also made it clear that it was not satisfied with the way cable network companies had priced set-top boxes. It is also of the view that they have not passed on the benefits of its duty reduction to the consumers completely.
The government has also raised objections regarding differential pricing of set-top boxes and services in different parts of the city. That cable network companies charge installation charges is also a concern.
The sources said the government had taken up these issues with cable network companies and had directed them to take corrective measures.