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CAS rates

New Delhi, July 18: Broadcasters led by STAR have informed the Centre that they will announce new rates of pay channels shortly, information and broadcasting ministry sources said today.

They said STAR chief Peter Mukerjea had informed the ministry that STAR was working with other broadcasters and will make public the new rates in the “honeymoon” period leading to the rollout of the conditional access system.

The discounted rates would be aimed at easing the burden of paying for set-top boxes so that the equipment can be popularised.

The government has been appealing to the broadcasters to prepare a rate card in such a way that subscription fees inclusive of the cost of the set-top box and the basic package (of Rs 72 plus taxes) can be kept at around Rs 200 per connection.

The sources said the issue of clearing STAR’s application to uplink was not being seen in conjunction with the company's attitude to CAS for cable television that is to roll out in the four metros from September 1.

Thursday’s meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, law minister Arun Jaitley and information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad did not deliberate on a rollback of CAS but on steps that are to be taken to ensure that CAS is implemented, the sources claimed.

The authorities were considering changes to the cable act. There was need for an enabling provision in the law to cover broadcasters and make them comply with rules under CAS. It was not certain that such legislation could be moved in the Parliament session beginning from Monday.

The sources said the ministry was also monitoring the supply chain for set-top boxes. According to its estimates, a total of 50,000 digital and analog imported set-top boxes were available in the four metros currently and another 50,000 assembled in the country would be on shelves shortly.

In a parallel development, an inter-ministerial group that has been tasked to review rules governing foreign direct investment for uplinking companies of television news channels has been formed.

The inter-ministerial group comprises officials from the ministries of information and broadcasting, law, justice and company affairs, home and finance. The group was formed in the wake of the government decision to review rules governing Foreign Direct Investment after it was deemed that STAR News’ uplinking company, Media Content and Communication Services had not complied with the “letter and spirit” of the law.

The sources said the company’s application was yet to be cleared by the I&B ministry after which it will need the green signals of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board and the ministry of home affairs. Till then, STAR will be allowed to uplink provisionally. It has got four weekly extensions so far and a fifth one is almost a certainty.

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