When the conditional access system (CAS) for cable television was deferred in Delhi ahead of the Assembly elections last year, government didn’t offer any reasons for doing that. It only said that CAS was being put off in the capital till the Assembly elections are over. However, this time around, government wants to play safe. The information and broadcasting ministry is consulting the law ministry to ensure that there are no loopholes in its order to scrap the controversial CAS, according to sources in the government.
Although the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended that CAS should be put off by three months in all four metros, the government order may not specify any timeframe at all. A notification is expected in a day or two, to withdraw the previous government order, of July 2003 mandating CAS in four metros. The notification to withdraw CAS would be based on the reasons given in the regulator’s recommendation to the government.
With a section of the cable operators threatening to move court against the government, if it puts CAS off, the I&B ministry is planning to issue a fool-proof notification which will stand judicial scrutiny. The focus this time is on the merit of the case and not on politics, sources said.
Meanwhile, there’s no word from the government as to what consumers, who have already bought set-top boxes, will do with them, once CAS is put on hold or junked.
But according to the cable industry, niche channels can still be shown through set-top boxes. According to estimates, Rs 250 crore to 350 crore has been spent to introduce CAS in the country.