April 03, 2006, New Delhi, Press Release

With the deadline for implementation of CAS approaching fast, CUTS International has said that the key to its effective implementation lies in providing for choice of channels to consumers at lower price.

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.

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. i.e.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.

The Channels must inform the consumers well in advance as to the nature of their Channel whether ‘Free to Air’ or ‘Pay’. This is important for the consumer to decide whether he would like to subscribe to the same or not. Once a channel has declared itself pay or FTA, the status should remain unchanged for a sufficiently long period say one year or so.

With the long delay in implementation of CAS, a psychological barrier has been created among the consumers against CAS which must be removed. Hence, a full fledged awareness campaign must be launched to make the consumer aware of the advantages of switching over to CAS.

According to CUTS, even though there is a crying need to regulate prices and ensure proper service standards at local level, the solution does not solely lie in regulating prices charged by local cable operators, who are very much a part of determining the prices paid by consumers. In fact, in most cases, monopoly of cable operators at consumers’ end is the result of monopoly of the multi system operator (MSO). Hence concrete policies are required to check the behavior of broadcasters, MSOs and cable operators.

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.