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`Consumer interest to be kept in mind on CAS'

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, May 24

EVEN as the controversy over the implementation of a conditional access system (CAS) continues, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, today said that the consumer interest has to be taken into account.

After a presentation to the Prime Minister, the Information & Broadcasting Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, said, "I have briefed the PM. He said that consumer interest should be taken care of." The Minister is understood to have assured Mr Vajpayee that consumers' interests would be taken care of before the rollout.

Sources, however, said that there would be no postponement in the implementation of CAS and the deadline of July 14 remained. But concerns about the availability of set-top boxes (STBs) and its price were raised in today's meeting.

Mr Prasad, who returned today after a week-long tour abroad, had sought an appointment with the Prime Minister to make a presentation on CAS, the fate of which became uncertain with the BJP expressing apprehensions about the consumer reaction to it. The meeting was attended by senior members of the I&B Ministry and the PMO.

Earlier, in a clash between cable operators and consumer organisations, the Consumer Coordination Council, an apex body of 50 consumer groups, have announced plans to file public interest litigation in the four metros where CAS is to be implemented from July 14. They have also sought a deferment of CAS.

Ms Varsha Raut of the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, and a member of the task force on implementation of CAS, said that the consumers must have not only the choice of channels but also a choice of technology. "He should be able to choose between CAS, DTH and convergence," she said. She added that an autonomous independent regulatory body must be set up. The group also opposed the airing of ads in pay channels.

Meanwhile, the cable operators said that if there was any delay in the rollout of CAS, the monthly cable charges would go up to Rs 500 per month.

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