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Since 1st March, 1999
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Cablemen protest Rs-72 month

Mumbai, July 5: Viewers might not get to enjoy the Rs 72 “honeymoon month” gifted by the Centre as a run-up to the conditional access system.

Cable operators all over the country, agitated over the Centre’s announcement that viewers will get both free-to-air and pay channels for Rs 72 for the whole of August, say they do not have the resources to implement the offer.

In Calcutta, Mrinal Chatterjee, member of the CAS task force, said: “Rs 72 is an impossible amount for cable operators to run their businesses. It’s not just for the month of August either. Rolling out CAS in a phased manner means that if on September 1, zone 1 of the city gets CAS, zones 2 to 4 will continue to pay Rs 72.”

“Small cable operators will go completely out of business, paving the way for multinationals. This is not fair, because cable operators are the only ones losing out,” Chatterjee said.

“We are thinking about ways to get this message across to the government. We want the Centre to form an impartial regulatory committee, which will listen to what we have to say and then make a decision based on that. If need be, we will take the matter to court.”

Ravi Singh, president of the Federation of Cable Operators’ Association, Maharashtra, echoed him.

“We won’t be able to deliver. Who will bear the cost of the pay channels' The multi-system operators will charge us. How will it be possible for us to provide the signals for Rs 72'” asked Singh, a Ghatkopar-based cable operator. “We will have to shut off pay channels if the rates are not revised.”

“We will request the government to raise the rates to at least Rs 150 per month,” added Raja Nadar, a cable operator in Matunga. “Our organisation, called COD, may file a public interest litigation, asking the government to revise the rates.”

The Federation of Cable Operators’ Association today issued an appeal to the Centre to clarify the issue and ensure that its offer does not become a burden for operators.

Cable operators feel the guidelines are not clear. According to the Centre, after the beaming of all free-to-air and pay channels for Rs 72 for the whole of August, areas demarcated number one zones in the metros will get the option of CAS from September 1, number two zones from October 1, number three zones from November 1 and number four zones from December 1.

This does not clarify what happens to zones 2, 3 and 4 after August. Do they get all the channels for Rs 72 till CAS is implemented'

It is a worry niggling broadcasters, too. “We want to clarify that the offer of beaming free-to-air and pay channels for Rs 72 is for the period of August only,’’ said a Sony spokesperson today.

The STAR spokesperson said broadcasters will meet central officials to discuss the matter next week.

Broadcasters feel that while zone 1 moves to CAS in September, zones 2, 3 and 4 should revert to pre-CAS prices for the pay channels, instead of paying Rs 72 for all channels.

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