March 27, 2006, New Delhi, Press Release

There is an urgent need to decentralize the regulatory enforcement system for regulating the cable TV Industry because there is a variation across cities in terms of cable TV system, CUTS International said in a representation to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting during a stakeholder consultation seminar on CAS in the capital.

In fact, in most cases, problems in cable TV industry are of local nature. It is therefore important that the state governments and local stakeholders should evolve a cable TV system that best suits their state.

The experience of Chennai suggests that Conditional Access System in its present form has not proved successful. A major reason for this is that even with set top boxes, channels come in bundled form i.e. there are 5 to 6 different bouquets available giving no choice to consumers. Another important reason for low penetration of CAS in Chennai is that set top boxes are available only for purchase at a price. This is quite prohibitive.

For CAS to be successful, bundling of channels need to be scrapped. Further, set top boxes must be made available on rental basis and provided in a manner similar to the way LPG Cylinders are available. That is Consumer pays a deposit amount for getting the set top box and in case of transfer, can return the same to MSO, CUTS has said.

Further, given the emergence of alternate delivery platforms, TRAI must ensure that the ‘must provide clause’ for all TV Channels is adhered to in a non discriminatory manner. This would ensure competition at all levels and choice to consumers.

According to CUTS, there are no standard rates or conditions at which cable operators provide services to subscribers. Monthly subscription charges are increased without complying with the orders of TRAI in this regard. There is a crying need to regulate prices and ensure proper service standards at local level. In several cases, monopoly of cable operators at consumers’ end is the result of monopoly of the multi system operator (MSO). Concrete policies are required to check the behavior of broadcasters, MSOs and cable operators.