Despite sending strong signals that conditional access system is headed nowhere, the government is yet to say ‘no’ to CAS. Meanwhile, CAS came into full play on New Year’s day, with all pay channels being switched off in most cable homes in the first zone of Delhi. In another fortnight or so, the government is expected to take a call on the issue, according to highly-placed sources. Till then, consumers have to live in suspended animation. Over 20,000 set-top boxes, which are needed to access pay channels under CAS, are learnt to have been either sold or rented out in the capital already.
As of now, although the government does not appear to have a clear idea on how to approach CAS, whether on implementation or rollback, it has begun work on setting up an interim broadcasting regulator. Setting up of a regulator was part of the Delhi High Court order, which gave CAS a three-month trial run in the first zone of the capital, before a review of the system is undertaken. The independent regulator would look at content and dispute-related tariff issues.
Having woken up to the prospect of early Lok Sabha elections, a decision on CAS is likely to be taken at the highest political level. Since CAS implementation has not been consumer-friendly so far, there are indications that the new cable TV distribution system may be put on hold, at least till elections are over.
On the options before the government to roll back CAS or put it on hold, sources in the information and broadcasting ministry said, “these must be legally sustainable”. Also, they added that the government is bound by two court orders to implement CAS, and it’s not easy to reverse the same. “To go against the court order without good reasons is a tough call,” said an official.
The government is still studying the options while waiting for a report from the Delhi CAS implementation committee, it is understood. The report is expected within a week and thereafter government is likely to form a view on CAS.