Political Whos Who Attend CAS Taskforce Meeting

New Delhi, March 7: | Updated: Mar 8 2003, 05:30am hrs
In a clear indication that he means business, information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attended a taskforce meeting on the conditional access system (CAS) here on Friday. The taskforce, which is headed by I&B joint secretary Rakesh Mohan, is represented by broadcasters, multi-service operators (MSOs), cable operators, and consumer groups.

Interestingly, the meeting on Friday had yet another political face. BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, whos not a taskforce member, also participated. Mr Somaiya, known for his consumer-friendly tilt, appears to have rubbed the cable TV fraternity the wrong way with his suggestions on CAS. Among other things, he said viewers must not be made to fund their set top boxes.

If cable operators were unhappy with Mr Somaiyas suggestions, broadcasters were upset with the ministers decree. Reiterating his tough stand on the issue, Mr Prasad told the broadcasters present in the meeting that deadline for implementing CAS would not be extended. July 14 has already been set as the deadline for implementing CAS in metros.

While the cost of the basic tier or the free-to-air channels under CAS continues to be a mystery, the number of channels has more or less been firmed up now. As against 22 free-to-air (FTA) channels in the current scenario, CAS will have greater room for FTA channels. According to a member of the taskforce, CAS is likely to have 30 free to air channels, depending on their availability. The genres that would be available in the basic tier would include entertainment, news, sports, music and childrens channels.

In the next taskforce meet scheduled for March 21, the government is expected to take up the costing issue. Once CAS is implemented, a cable TV viewer would be able to access pay channels of their choice through a set-top box. FTA channels would, however, be available without a set-top box at a fixed monthly price.