The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sop to sweeten set-top bitter pill

New Delhi, Aug. 7: Pay channel broadcasters are likely to offer services free for a month in zones where set-top boxes will become mandatory after the conditional access system for cable TV rolls out in September.

Information and broadcasting ministry sources said Zee’s Subhash Chandra has told the government that the offer was being made as an incentive to viewers to buy set-top boxes. However, other broadcasters have not yet assured the ministry that they will also offer such a scheme but they have not said “no”.

This is yet another drive by the government to popularise CAS. The initiative for a “honeymoon” period during August when broadcasters and cable operators were urged to charge not more than the basic tier rate of Rs 72 (plus taxes) fell through.

Though minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has committed in Parliament that CAS will be rolled out in the four metros from September, the government is still taking stock of the wide divisions in the cable television industry. Broadcasters have not yet declared “final rates” for pay channels and have been asked to declare the rates by August 14.

Broadcasters and multi-system operators were still to iron out differences. Complicating the issue is the refusal of STAR and Sony to transmit their signals over Siticable’s HITS (headend in the sky) platform.

Siticable, a Zee outfit, is adopting a conditional access system that fuses satellite relay to headends with distribution through cable. Siticable is the largest MSO in the country.

A refusal by Sony and STAR to distribute their channels through Siticable’s HITS will vastly restrict its reach.

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