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May 14, 2002 | 1310 IST
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Sahara flays IBF stand on conditional access

BS Corporate Bureau

Differences between the Indian television broadcasters on the issue of allowing conditional access system based cable television distribution system came out in the open today with Sahara TV, a member of Indian Broadcasting Foundation, openly criticising the foundation's reservations on the amendments to the Cable Television Network (Regulation) act of 1995 aimed at introducing CAS based cable TV transmissions.

Sahara TV, a free-to-air channel, said in a statement, "Sahara TV, a key member of IBF, has decried the decision of the IBF committee to oppose the proposed CAS recommendation by the Union government." IBF refused to commend on the issue. In a meeting held on May 10, the IBF had said that the implementation of CAS should be a planned and phased process.

Terming the IBF's opposition to the proposed CAS as a factional and an anti-consumer move, Sumit Roy, head of Sahara TV, said that IBF had not taken a majority of its members into confidence while opposing the government's move to amend the Cable TV Regulation Act.

The company said in a statement that the foundation on May 10 had called for a select meeting of channel heads who opposed the centre's move to the proposed amendment to the Cable TV Regulation Act.

"Surprisingly, all those channels which are free to air and form a majority in the Indian broadcasting industry were not invited to the meeting despite being key members," the statement said.

Roy said in the statement that the decision of a fraction of the IBF could not be constituted as the voice of the Indian broadcasting industry as it urgently required a brad based review and debate among all the industry players.

So far only the Zee TV chairman, Subhash Chandra, had come out in support of the CAS. "The introduction of CAS would be a good development for the broadcasters, multi system operators, cable operators and the subscribers. I think that the revenues of broadcasters, MSOs and cable operators would go up considerably," Chandra had said.

All other broadcasters have expressed their reservations on CAS. Meanwhile, the opposition to the CAS has come out form out side the broadcasting industry too. Consumer Guidance Society of India on Monday said that the proposed amendments do not offer any protection to the consumers against the monopolistic cable operators not does it seek to redress the grievances of the consumers.

"It also curtails the choice availability to the consumers," CGSI said in a statement.

"It appears that the choice of free to air channels which could be part of the basic services will now rest with the government while the choice of which pay channels would be offered to the consumers will rest with the cable operators," said Anand Patwardhan, chairman, CGSI.

The cable television operators have, however, come in support for the CAS.

According to Vikki Choudhry, president, National Cable and telecommunications Association, the government should immediately introduce the CAS and ask the broadcasting companies to disclose their pay channel rates.

It has also asked the government to fix the basic cable TV service rates through a regulator authority or ministry of I&B.

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