Broadcasters, specially those managing pay channels, may have reasons
to smile amidst tensions since late last week when the government
finalised the rate of the basic tier of free to air cable channels
at Rs 72 per month, 67 paise more than what had been recommended
by task force on conditional access. Some cable operators, on the
other hand, have definitely got busy with legalities to find loopholes
in the relevant rules so as to move the court.
A notification to this effect is now expected soon, though till
late in the evening government sources had no idea when the notification
would be finally issued that would formalise the price of the basic
tier. Information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
told journalists in Chennai late last week that his ministry has
cleared the price of the basic tier at Rs 72.
Though broadcasters are tightlipped on the developments --- there's
an Indian Broadcasting Foundation meeting tomorrow here after which
more information may tumble out --- a section of cable operators
are almost up in arms.
Cable Networks Association's Rakesh Dutta, Cable Operators Federation
of India's Roop Sharma (both members of the task force on CAS) and
Vicky Chowdhry of the National Cable and Telecom Association may
not have much love lost amongst them, but on one issue today they
are unanimous: the price of Rs 72 for the basic tier is too low
and that some legal action may have to be taken.
Speaking to indiantelevision.com from Kolkata, Sharma, one of the
oldest leaders of cable ops though she is no more a cable operator
herself anymore, said, "We are exploring all options, including
seeking legal redressal on the issue."
Sharma added that she has organised a symposiums and meet in Kolkata
today and tomorrow after which a similar thing would be done in
Mumbai too to awaken the cable ops to their fundamental right to
carry on a business to earn a livelihood, which would become difficult
if the government sticks to its stand on Rs 72 per month per household
for the basic tier of cable service.
Both Dutta and Chowdhry also added that they are consulting lawyers
to study the ground on which the pricing issue can be challenged
in court. This may include the confusion that still prevails over
set-top boxes and their availability, despite assertions to the
contrary made by the likes of Siti Cable's Jawahar Goel.
However, there is also a section of cable operators that feels
no step should be taken that would delay the implementation of CAS,
which is in "national interest."
"Moving courts on CAS may be playing into the hands of those vested
interest who are trying to delay its rollout," AK Rastogi, an independent
cable operator in Delhi, who also runs an industry cable magazine
called Avishkar, said.
Meanwhile, the broadcasters would meet tomorrow under the aegis
of the IBF to chalk out an action plan (related to CAS, of course)
for a meeting some broadcasters have sought with a parliamentary
panel day after tomorrow.