The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP mounts TV box pressure

New Delhi, June 24: The BJP stepped up pressure on the Centre to defer implementation of the conditional access system despite the Prime Minister’s blessings implicit in his directive to the information and broadcasting ministry to ensure that the system does not jeopardise consumer interests.

BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, general secretary Pramod Mahajan and Delhi party chief Madan Lal Khurana met deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and finance minister Jaswant Singh today to convey their fear that implementation of the system might hurt party prospects in the Assembly polls due in November.

Khurana said the ministers assured them that under no circumstance would consumers have to pay more for viewing cable channels than what they are paying now. “If anything, they will perhaps pay a lower price,” he said. Khurana added that a final decision would be taken after Atal Bihari Vajpayee returns from China on June 28.

BJP sources said the overweening mood in the party was to put the decision on hold till the Assembly elections. It is believed that Khurana, projected as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, went to the extent of suggesting that the Centre could enforce the conditional access system in the other metros, but Delhi should be left out.

Delhi BJP sources fear that the system might have the same effect as the other “controversial” decision relating to value added tax. The VAT proposal was deferred under pressure from the BJP and the sources claimed that the system that needs installation of set-top boxes for viewing pay channels would meet the same fate.

Khurana wrote to Vajpayee on June 21 that there was a great deal of confusion over the system after the stakeholders made conflicting statements on the rate viewers would have to pay. He also mentioned the lack of adequate set-top boxes, saying that against Delhi’s requirement of 15 lakh boxes, only 21,000 had arrived in Mumbai port from South Korea. It would take another two to three months to meet the shortfall.

The BJP is worried that its middle-class constituency, hooked on Hindi soaps from the STAR-Sony-Zee stable, would be badly affected by the system and their “anger” could cost the party dear in the elections. The Congress has warned that it would take to the streets if the system is implemented.

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