Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Jul 05, 2003
Industry & Economy - Radio/TV
CAS rollout may be deferred
NEW DELHI, July 4
THE implementation of the Conditional Access System (CAS) for regulation of cable TV industry is set to go the VAT way with the Government reconciled to a deferment to September 1.
Earlier, the deadline for the rollout of CAS was July 15, but this may be missed if the Government agrees to the September 1 rollout date suggested by the cable industry and the broadcasters.
After over seven hours of discussions between the cable industry, broadcasters and officials from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), it has been suggested that CAS be rolled out in the four metros in a staggered fashion and the full implementation be completed by December 1.
Also from August 1, till the complete implementation of CAS in the four metros, pay broadcasters have been asked to waive off their subscription fee.
Speaking to newspersons, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, said, "We have received these suggestions from the industry and will take a view shortly." He added that from September 1 onwards all the four metros would be divided into four zones and the rollout of CAS would be zone wise. The rollout would be completed by December 1.
According to the plan, from August 1, all the channels (free-to-air and pay) would be available at Rs 72 plus taxes. But from September 1 onwards depending on the zone, consumers who wish to watch pay channels would have to acquire a set-top box (STB). Also, the period between August and September would be utilised by the industry to educate the consumer on CAS.
Meanwhile, the cable industry has been asked to work towards a proper declaration system and broadcasters have been asked to take a fresh look at the rates of pay channels. The Ministry has maintained that the rates announced by pay channels have been on the higher side.
Mr Sameer Nair, Chief Operating Officer, Star India, said that the waiver of subscription fees would impact the revenues of the channel considerably. He also added that the fundamental issue of declaration would need to be resolved.
Earlier in the day, Indian broadcasters joined hands to accuse the foreign broadcasters of adopting "arm-twisting tactics" to delay implementation of CAS. Broadcasters such as Aaj Tak, SABe TV, Sahara TV and Eenadu TV, who met in Mumbai, also opposed the "rollout plan" suggested by their foreign counterparts, saying it will lead to opening the Indian airwaves to foreign invasion. They said the delay in CAS implementation would work against the public interest and would also seriously erode the credibility of the Government.
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