Consultative Committee Clears CAS Proposal

New Delhi: | Updated: Apr 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
Its another step torwards the introduction of the conditional access system (CAS) in the country. The consultative committee, comprising members of Parliament, met here on Wednesday and broadly agreed with the proposal of the task force to introduce CAS in the country.

The task force, headed by joint secretary Information and Broadcasting Rakesh Mohan, had finalised the CAS draft last month.

The CAS will enable cable television viewers in India to watch the channels they want to and pay for only those channels, with the help of a set-top box.

With quite a few absentees, the number of MPs attending the consultative committee meeting came to only around eight.

Shabana Azmi, Kartar Singh Duggal, Bal Kavi Bairagi and Hanan Molah were among those who attended the meeting.

With the green signal from the consultative committee, which is primarily an advisory body, the CAS proposal will be forwarded to the Cabinet next, according to sources. Although no deadline has been set for it, sources indicated that the CAS proposal would be sent to the Cabinet at the earliest.

Since introduction of CAS implies a new legislation and a new Act, it has to get a Parliamentary clearance. According to sources, the CAS draft is likely to be tabled in the current Parliament session, which is on till May 22.

As per the recommendations of the Task Force, with broadcasters, representatives of the cable industry, consumer activists and technical people as members, CAS should be mandated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

Moreover, the set-top box should be required only for pay channels, the task force had suggested. The free-to-air channels would be available to subscribers in the current mode, without a set-top box, it added.

The issue of introduction of an addressability system came to the fore mainly because of the clash between broadcasters and cable operators over the number of subscribers, channels increasingly turning pay and frequent increase in cable television subscription rates.

To deliberate and decide upon various issues on this topic, it was decided to set up a task force with representations from the cross section of the industry.

The task force held three meetings to deliberate on issues relating to CAS. For technology issues, a sub-committee was constituted with I&B officials, industry representatives, equipment manufa-cturers and technical experts on the panel.