The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt in TV box tough talk

New Delhi, July 6 (PTI): The government has slammed broadcasters for making “misleading” statements and expressing reservations on the proposal of charging Rs 72 for all channels from August.

Calling it a clear deviation from the agreed roadmap for the conditional access system (CAS), the government said any attempt to derail the process would not be tolerated.

The government is in no mood to relent and has decided that charging more than this amount after September 1 in non-notified areas would be punishable under law, government sources said.

The broadcasters claim the agreement reached at Friday’s meeting was that Rs 72 plus taxes for all channels was “honeymoon time” to be given to each zone in the metros for the month preceding the one when the CAS regime begins. However, the government said consumers would get this benefit till they get CAS notification.

The government sees the broadcasters’ interpretation as an attempt to “derail CAS, mislead the public and cause confusion”, and it is not prepared to tolerate this, the sources said.

Representatives of all stakeholders — broadcasters, multi-system operators and cable operators — had conveyed the new proposals to information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday.

The government then issued a release yesterday, saying blackout of any pay channel from August 1 would mean that the broadcasters had themselves chosen not to give signals to the cable operators, the sources said.

The broadcasters, who had agreed to go free-to-air at Friday’s meeting, cannot have the cake and eat it too, they said.

The government is determined to go ahead with CAS under the new set of proposals chalked out for a phased rollout. The sources said all three stakeholders have told Prasad that they would cooperate in putting the addressable system for viewing pay channels in place and in implementing CAS in its true spirit.

At Friday’s meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, government representatives reportedly took a strong exception to “arrogant” statements by certain broadcasters threatening eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the government. They also allegedly dared the government, saying: “Let’s see who blinks first.”

Refuting suggestions that CAS has been deferred to September 1, the government insisted it would roll out on August 1.

The government claimed that once implemented, consumers going for free-to-air and pay channels of their choice would be paying “much less” than now.

Allaying apprehensions about the set-top box costing around Rs 3000, the sources said they would be available on rent at an affordable price.

The government plans to launch a campaign to educate people and create a “positive” awareness on CAS.

Under the agreement reached on Friday, the system will be implemented zone-wise from September 1 and the entire process will be completed by December 1.

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