CAS extension in Delhi, other metros shelved for now

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New Delhi, Dec 16 (UNI) The extension of the Conditional Access System(CAS), a digital mode of transmission of TV signals, to the remaining areas of three of the four metros may be further delayed.

The system was introduced in some areas of these cities from January 1 this year and was earlier slated to be extended to the remaining areas, but ''the proposal has now been put on the back burner''.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has held several meetings with broadcasters, multiservice operators, cable operators and TRAI officials to sort out the issues that would result from the extension of CAS, but could not reach any conclusion.

Finally it sought the views of the states concerned--Delhi, West Bengal(Kolkata) and Maharashtra(Mumbai) regarding the working of CAS in the notified areas and the requirements of extending it to the remaining areas.

''The states are yet to adequately respond to our queries or send their input, without which no further progress was expected in the matter,'' said an official.

While some states have sent some sort of input, the Delhi government has not responded at all. A source said the Government does not want to get involved in another tricky issue when it has to face election in less than a year.

It is generally believed and the Ministry has itself accepted that CAS has not been as sucessful as desired. There are a number of complaints from the consumers about the quality of service etc.

In the pre-CAS days, the rates of monthly cable subscription varied from city to city and even in areas and localities within a city.

The broadcasters had bunched their channels into bouquets and the subscriber was forced to pay even for those channels, which he did not want to see.

The monthly subscription rates were also arbitrarily increased at frequent intervals.

The Multi-System Operators (MSOs) and cable operators blamed the broadcasters for hiking the price of their pay channel bouquets resulting in frequent raise in subscription rates.

The broadcasters blamed the cable operators for under-reporting the number of subscribers resulting in loss of revenue to the broadcasters and also evasion of entertainment tax, service tax and even income tax.

In order to protect the consumers from arbitrary and frequent increase of subscription rates, the government amended the Cable Television Act to make the viewing of pay channels through an addressable system (Conditional Access System). The new system was to come into force in 2003 itself, but was deferred due to opposition from the people.

It was, however, introduced in Chennai, where it is working well. The system was introduced in the notified areas of Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi only from January 1 this year.

CAS advocate say that it brings transparency in the system, since accurate figures of subscriber base are available and broadcasters would not take the under-reporting plea for hikes in rates of pay channels.

The issue of under declaration by the cable operators also vanishes as periodic information has to be submitted by them to the government regarding connectivity. That information shall be available to broadcasters also.

If the subscriber wishes to view pay channels he has to use 'Set Top Box' (STB) through which the channels, which he wishes to see would reach him.

No STB is required if the subscriber wants to watch only the free to air (FTA) channels.

UNI

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