The Economic Times, 18th May 2003

CONSUMERS who would ultimately win or lose in the conditional access system regime for television broadcast services, are finally speaking out. Two organisations – Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI) and Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) ā€“ have spoken out against CAS.

While the former has urged consumer groups across the four metros to join hands and file a public interest litigation, the latter is engaged in drafting its own “comprehensive” Bill on the basis of good practices in other countries, and which would address issues like service standards, performance quality and price caps for pay channels.

As the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002 does not give the Centre authority to fix the price of pay channels, CUTS general secretary, Pradeep S. Mehta says, “This is extremely ridiculous as price capping is resorted to everywhere in the world including India, where natural monopolies operate. In India we have the Electricity Regulatory Commission to fix tariffs. State governments fix fares for taxis, buses and auto rickshaws.”

Bundling of channels, unaffordable a la carte pricing, telecast of unpopular FTA channels (to wring out carriage fee form FTA channels with demand), poor quality signals, blackouts, lack of servicing or performance guarantee of STBs are some of the “shenanigans the industry would resort to, to defeat the purpose of the legislation” fears the NGO.

Mumbai-based CGSI chairman Anand Patwardhan says, “CAS is definitely not in the consumer interest and consumers must unite to fight this thoughtless and apathetic draftsmanship which is anti-consumer.”

The consumer is being penalised for under declarations by cable operators.