No More Strikes, Promise Cablemen

New Delhi, July 24: | Updated: Jul 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
After the “token” strike, which stretched anything from 10 to 15 hours in many parts of the country on Wednesday, cable operators are talking the commitment lingo.

Having made their point in support of conditional access system (CAS) and against the pay channels, the operators have now decided to stay away from any strike, as promised to information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj just a day ago.

While the cable fraternity kept its word on lifting the indefinite strike so that the nation could catch the Presidential swearing-in ceremony on television on Thursday morning, the government couldn’t do much on the consensus front as far as the CAS Bill is concerned.

With Opposition MPs staging a walkout over the issue on Wednesday, Ms Swaraj is far from arriving at a consensus over CAS, that is so crucial before getting the Cable TV Network Amendment Bill back on the Rajya Sabha business list.

Reacting to the MPs’ allegation that the government is protecting cable operators who threatened the members from opposing the Bill when it comes up for discussion in the Upper House, Ms Swaraj said in a press statement that “no external pressure could influence the legislative procedure of business”. She also said it is unfortunate that some cable operators have threatened to cut the cable connections to some of the Opposition MPs’ houses.

The Bill, which was delisted last week, was expected to be taken up on Thursday. But now a few more rounds of deliberations between Ms Swaraj and the Opposition are likely before the Bill goes to the Upper House again. The buzz is that CAS will make a comeback in the House sometime next week.

Ms Swaraj is optimistic on arriving at a consensus with the Opposition on CAS and that the Bill which enables CAS will be cleared by the Rajya Sabha in this session itself. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill in the budget session.

Once CAS is introduced, government will fix a bouquet of channels, for a fixed rate which will be available to consumers without a set-top box. For the pay channels, pricing for which will be determined by the market forces, consumers will need to buy set-top boxes.