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May 11, 2002 | 1145 IST
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Govt to seek details of cable connections

Bipin Chandran

The amendments to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, to implement the conditional access system (CAS)-based cable TV distribution propose to make it mandatory for cable operators to fully disclose details regarding their subscribers.

The changes seek disclosure of information about number of subscribers, subscription rates and the number of subscribers receiving programmes transmitted in basic service tier or particular programme or set of programmes transmitted on pay channels.

With this proposal, the government is meeting a long standing demand of the broadcasters and multi-system operators asking government to take steps to prevent under-declaration of connections by the cable operators.

"Today about 85 per cent of the subscribers goes undisclosed. This should be addressed by the government," Subhash Chandra, chairman Zee Network, said.

The government, according to amendments, will also stipulate the number of free to air channels in a bouquet of cable operators based on the area distribution of the cable operator.

According to government sources, as per the amendment, the government will direct cable operators the number of free to air channels based of the state, city and locality of the cable operator. This means that the number of free to air channels will differ from cable operator to cable operator.

The government is expected to move the amendments to the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act in the current session of Parliament itself. Besides, the government will also work out subscription charges for the free to air channels based on state, city and the region.

"The fee charged by the cable operator from city to city or with in the city will also differ," he said. The government will also put in place a mechanism to ensure that the cable operators are meeting the directions of the government in the pricing and the number of the free to air channels.

In another step that would bring about further transparency in the operation of cable operators, the amendment proposes that "every cable operator shall publicise, in the prescribed manner, to the subscribers the subscription rates and the periodic intervals after which such subscriptions are payable for receiving each pay channel provided by such cable operator."

Although the government will not have any role to play in determining the subscription fees for pay channels and value added services offered by a cable operator or multi-system operators, the amendment will have provisions to ensure adequate transparency and accuracy in the pricing and billing system to protect the interests of the consumers.

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