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Cable TV Act: Govt to hold more legal consultations

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, July 10:

THE Information and Broadcasting Ministry is planning to have extensive consultations on the proposed legislation seeking to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act that will bring the broadcasters within its purview.

The I&B Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, said while the Cabinet today informally discussed the implementation of the conditional access system (CAS) , he said that discussions on legal measures to rein in the broadcasters would be held.

"One or two proposals require more legal consultations," he said without elaborating on the details. The Government has been looking at various options such as putting a cap on advertising time on pay channels and taking steps to prevent bundling of channels in a post-CAS scenario. Currently, there is no law for the broadcasters.

The I&B Ministry has been toying with an Ordinance amending the Act to ensure a smooth rollout of CAS. While resolving to go ahead with its rollout from September, Mr Prasad said, "The Cabinet resolved there should be no roll-back of CAS. The Government is firm on its implementation in the manner mapped out by the Ministry. The Cabinet was unanimous on this." Both the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, said at the meeting that CAS would be implemented, according to sources.

The Government has been unhappy with the broadcasters, especially with the pay channels over pricing. While the I&B Ministry had expected them to price their channels low to enable better penetration of set top boxes (STBs), broadcasters have priced their driver channels very high. Also, the broadcasters seem to be going back on the agreement of a phased rollout. While the Government had announced that all channels would be made available for Rs 72 plus taxes from August 1 in the four metros till a zone gets notified for CAS, but the broadcasters later said they had agreed to giving only a month's `honeymoon' time to each zone.

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