Addressability, or the conditional access system (CAS), is just a month away for Calcutta Zone I. But the government-proposed month-long honeymoon for cable homes on pay channels is off, as last-mile cable operators have made it clear they will charge their viewers at existing rates for August.
The information and broadcasting ministry had promised an August windfall for subscribers, saying they should pay only Rs 72 plus local taxes for the free-to-air (FTA) package, and that the pay fare would come free. But, pending any government notification to that effect, all pay broadcasters have notified the respective multi-system operators (MSOs) that they will charge at usual rates for August.
“Yes, we have got letters from all the broadcasters — STAR, Zee-Turner, SET-Discovery, ESPN-STAR Sports and MEN — saying they will bill us at July rates for August as well. Accordingly, we are advising all our member operators to charge subscribers at usual rates for all pay channels,” RPG Netcom CEO Dilip Sen told Metro on Thursday. A SitiCable spokesperson confirmed that the Zee-stable MSO would also maintain status quo on August rates.
Operators had sought an assurance from all pay broadcasters that they would distribute their signals free of cost in August, as a rider to charging cable homes only towards the FTA package for the month. “We had also sought assurance from the I&B ministry that CAS won't be pushed back any further, and proposed that the remaining three zones should be linked up simultaneously from October 1,” said Mrinal Chatterjee, representative of city operators on the CAS task force.
Cable Operators’ Sangram Committee spokesman Tarak Saha felt it would be in the best interests of the viewers to roll out CAS across the city in one shot to avoid uneven rates.
“The I&B ministry had assured us it doesn't have a problem if the MSOs are ready,” Saha said.
Last-mile operators have also quizzed the MSOs on their state of preparedness in rolling out CAS from September 1. “While we are quite satisfied with the CAS-worthiness of SitiCable and RPG Netcom, Manthan officials have failed to provide an acceptable feedback on the company's readiness to implement addressability on the ground,” said Chatterjee.