March 28, 2006, Business Line &
New Delhi

Broadcasters are in favour of bouquet pricing and not come out with a list of individual channel prices.

Pricing of pay channels continues to remain the bone of contention between broadcasters and cable service providers in the implementation of the conditional access system (CAS).

At a meeting between the various stakeholders and the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, the cable industry as well as consumer groups asked the pay channels to fix a la carte rates. They also asked the Government to fix an MRP on the rates to ensure that broadcasters do not resort to arbitrary pricing.

According to Ms Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators’ Federation of India (Cofi), “It was suggested that CAS be rolled out in other parts of the country after the metros.” While the large multi-system operators (MSOs) are prepared to implement CAS almost immediately, the independent operators would require more time.

Meanwhile the broadcasters are in favour of bouquet pricing and not come out with a list of individual channel prices. Broadcasting industry sources said that while the free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters are in favour of CAS, it is the pay channels that are opposing this

CUTS International said that there is need to decentralise the regulatory enforcement system for regulating the cable TV industry due to the variation in system across cities. Further, set top boxes must be made available on rental basis and provided in a manner similar to the way LPG Cylinders are available. It also said that pricing of channels should be regulated and proper service standards at local level must be ensured.

The Government will now have to take a final decision on the implementation of CAS. The Delhi High Court had given the Government a month’s time to ensure the roll out of this system.

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