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Atal firm on CAS deadline

New Delhi, July 10: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy, L.K. Advani, are understood to have told the Union cabinet today that the conditional access system will roll out in accordance with the schedule drawn up by the Union information and broadcasting ministry on September 1.

The cabinet today discussed CAS “informally”, but did not take any decision on issuing an ordinance to ensure that all pay channel broadcasters fall in line with the schedule, information minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Prasad claimed that the cabinet had unanimously approved of the CAS programme.

The ministry had yesterday drawn up a draft ordinance to amend the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Act 2002 that would have “enjoined upon” broadcasters to fix rates to ensure “a smooth rollout of CAS”. However, it has not been invoked. CAS was not in the formal agenda for discussions today. Prasad said he had briefed the cabinet on CAS “and it has been resolved at the highest level that there should be no rollback”.

The minister said there were informal discussions on “certain legislative proposals” and it was decided that “legal consultations” would be held to facilitate the rollout. “I explained to the cabinet how things are going and how we are implementing CAS. For example, there is a need to bring in broadcasters who are not in the loop of the cable act.”

The whole idea is to make the rollout properly in the interest of consumers,” Prasad said.

Last night, some pay broadcasters met ministry officials to sort out, among other issues, ambiguities on the rates to be offered for the zone-wise implementation of CAS.

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