CAS Wont Go VAT Way, Assures BJP

New Delhi, May 21: | Updated: May 22 2003, 05:30am hrs
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) feels the proposed conditional access system (CAS) is no political boomerang. A BJP spokesman told FE that his party supports the government decision to implement CAS in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata on July 14. He said there is considerable difference between CAS and the political dissent that forced the government to backtrack on value added tax (VAT).

We have no counter-view on the I&B ministers decision, BJP spokesperson MA Naqvi told FE. The party feels CAS is a step in the right direction, he said, when asked if the BJP leadership has warned party president M Venkaiah Naidu on the fallout of forcing 6.4 million cable TV owners in the four metros to buy a set top box costing 3-7,000 rupees (estimates vary) and a pay monthly subscription of Rs 250-500 to their cable operator to watch the existing bouquet of channels.

First, we feel cable and satellite TV is an elite item. Those who want to watch premium content (pay channels) should pay for it. Two, in CAS there is a FTA (free-to-air) tier for those who want to watch just 30 channels. That option will cost youincluding taxesless than Rs 100 per month. Third, the price of set top box can always be reduced. Our party can always talk to broadcasters and the government and try and help in the reduction of the 51 per cent duty on boxes, Mr Naqvi said.

Arguing that information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hasnt landed the BJP in a political hot spot, the spokesperson said, The decision was taken when Sushmaji (Ms Sushma Swaraj) was the I&B minister. I, myself, am a former I&B minister of state. We know what we are talking. In our assessment, CAS is no political liability. It is in line with global standards. It is a need so that people pay for what they watch.

Mr Naqvi claimed that Mr Venkaiah Naidu had not broached the CAS issue with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister LK Advani in their meeting on Tuesday.

The CAS issue is likely to be a matter of political jostling as election fever begins to build in various states including Delhi. The Congress is finalising its views on the subject today. Party spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy told FE that he would be able to bring out the partys stand on the subject on Thursday.