The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All in the dark on TV box

New Delhi, June 30: The Centre has drawn a blank on shaping the conditional access system for cable television despite meeting after meeting with broadcasters and operators.

Like static that overwhelms television screens when the signals go on the blink, broadcasters, operators and the government haven’t the foggiest on what the new regime governing cable television will look like after July 15.

The viewer is worse off: if the broadcasters, the operators and the government are still able to conjure up several scenarios, the viewer is left with none. As things stand now, the only thing that is clear about the new regime mandated by law is that there is nothing picture perfect about it.

Yet, I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, summarising two rounds of meetings with broadcasters today, claimed that CAS will roll out two weeks from now and pay channels will have to be viewed through set-top boxes. But broadcasters emerging from the meetings said it would take at least a year to knock CAS into shape.

To his credit, even Prasad was sceptical and drew up a scenario of “dual feeds” in a “twilight zone”. Demystified, it simply means that viewers will be subjected to contrary, even conflicting, situations in which set-top boxes may or may not be mandatory.

Cable operators promptly ruled out the possibility of distributing pay channels through “dual feeds”, saying it was not technologically possible. The “twilight zone” idea forwarded by broadcasters meant that during the transition phase, no prosecution can take place if there is a violation of the law.

Dismissing the possibility of “dual feeds”, cable operators ruled out parallel systems. Ministry sources, too, said “dual feeds” might be difficult in areas without digital distribution. This includes large swathes of Calcutta where operators have analog distribution systems.

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