MSOs Meeting Prasad Today To Push For CAS Implementation

New Delhi: | Updated: Sep 23 2003, 05:30am hrs
CAS may be a dirty word now, but cable service providers havent quite given up on it yet. In a renewed effort to revive the conditional access system or CAS, multi-system operators (MSOs) including Siti Cable, Hathway, RPG and InCable representatives will meet information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday with a three-point agenda.

Even as politics has played a spoilsport, cable providers are going to talk to the minister about the business of CAS, and how non-implementation of the new cable TV system would hurt them financially. The three demands that these MSOs are taking to Mr Prasad are: implement CAS in Mumbai and Kolkata

immediately; do not denotify these two cities (even if CAS is in a limbo); and extend duty sops on set-top boxes beyond September 30, according to sources. It may be recalled that government had earlier granted an extension for duty sop, when CAS was deferred from July 15 to September 1.

While CAS has been rolled out in Chennai, it has been deferred in Delhi till further notice due to approaching elections. In Mumbai and Kolkata, CAS has not been enforced by the respective state governments, though the Centre has not deferred it in the two cities.

Meanwhile, in the absence of a political will to implement CAS in Delhi, MSOs have started the process of making CAS boxes useful, in their own way. In a phased manner, they are digitising the analog channels, so that the reception is of good quality. For accessing these digitised channels, subscribers would require digital set-top boxes, the same ones that one would have acquired for CAS. While MSOs such as Siti Cable and Hathway have already begun digitising channels, others may join in later.

The digitisation process is particularly meant for subscribers looking for good reception quality of less popular channels. In the normal course, less popular channels, which are usually pushed beyond the first 50, are of bad reception quality. Digitisation, however, will change that, and offer good quality channels, irrespective of their positioning/popularity.

CAS, which is all about accessing pay channels through set-top boxes and paying only for them, was to be implemented in the four metros on July 15, and then it was deferred to September 1. However, only Chennai, which is not much of a pay TV market, complied with the rescheduled date.