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Polls over, operators revive set-top call

New Delhi, Dec. 5: Cable operators have revived the demand to implement the set-top box regime immediately after the conclusion of Assembly elections to five states.

A delegation of multi-system operators met officials of the information and broadcasting ministry today and said they will begin implementing the conditional access system for the cable television from December 15.

Information ministry officials said a Delhi High Court order cancelling a government directive to put on hold the implementation of CAS in Delhi has also been received. However, the order also comes after the election results. The government had put on hold the rollout of CAS till the conclusion of the Assembly polls in Delhi.

Information minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who met officials briefly today on CAS, is yet to take a decision and is understood to be waiting for a political direction. One view in the ministry is that government need not mandate CAS by a separate directive because the Cable Television Networks Amendment Act empowers multi-system operators to switch off pay channel signals unless they are routed through set-top boxes.

Ministry officials said they had also received a letter from the Bengal government informing that a meeting would be held in Calcutta soon to roadmap the implementation of CAS.

Representatives of MSOs RPG Netcom, Siticable and Hathway were understood to have told the government that broadcasters continued to be hostile to the implementation of CAS. Siticable’s Jawahar Goel said with the law in place there was nothing to stop them from making pay channel viewing through set-top boxes compulsory from December 15. The operators also wanted to implement CAS in Delhi as a whole instead of phasing it in zone-wise.

The implementation of CAS in Delhi will signal a rollout in the other metros as well. While CAS has been technically implemented in Chennai, many viewers still watch pay channels without set-top boxes. In Calcutta and Mumbai, the state governments had objected to CAS unless it was rolled out in the national capital.

Ministry officials were told that if CAS is made compulsory, there would not be a shortage of set-top boxes. Quoting figures from the customs, they said two lakh boxes had been imported to the country till October.

The government has fixed the price of the basic tier of at least 30 free to air channels (for which set-top boxes are not needed) at Rs 100.

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