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Cong beam-box protest

New Delhi, May 28: Is the country's current inflation rate 600 per cent' That is what the Congress chief spokesperson asked Union minister Sushma Swaraj today.

He asked the question in the context of consumers across the four metros being required to buy set-top boxes from mid-July as part of the Conditional Access System for cable-television.

Sushma may not be obliged to answer the Opposition spokesman’s poser. She ceased to be the information and broadcasting minister months ago. In any case, she is not even in the country right now.

But Jaipal Reddy today recalled that Sushma had told Parliament during the debate on CAS that the set-top box needed to implement the conditional access system would not cost more than Rs 2,000. The minister said this seven months ago. Today, a set-top box costs Rs 6,000 a piece.

Reddy, who briefly served as information and broadcasting minister himself in the United Front government over five years ago, wondered if this was due to inflation or if Sushma’s assurance had been wrong.

Angry that the government had secured Congress support on the basis of wrong information, Reddy demanded that the implementation of CAS be put on hold until all contentious issues were sorted out to the satisfaction of consumers.

The spokesman virtually accused the government of misleading Parliament by saying that under the CAS regime consumers would pay less for channels than they were paying at present.

Reddy also said it had not been made clear that the cost of viewing free-to-air and paid channels would rise and that under CAS, the viewer would end up seeing fewer channels unless he coughed up more money.

“Obviously, the declared objective of CAS is getting frustrated,” Reddy said.

He asked the government to expedite enactment of the proposed Act for setting up a convergence authority. Such an authority would be the proper body to address all problems associated with the CAS regime, Reddy added.

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