The conditional access system (CAS) will not roll out across notified Zone I in Calcutta from Monday after all, with police buying “two-three days’ time” from service providers to get conversant with their role on the ground in the set-top-box scenario.
Commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty met representatives of multi-system operators (MSOs) RPG Netcom, SitiCable and Manthan, on behalf of the state government, on Sunday afternoon. “We have sought certain clarifications from the Union information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry on a few grey areas in implementation of the system, and hope to get a feedback in two or three days. Till such time, we would request you to put CAS on hold,” Chakraborty told the MSOs.
Following in the footsteps of the Shiv Sena in Mumbai, the Left Front government has also opposed introduction of the addressable system in Calcutta in light of the Delhi pushback. A letter was shot off by Writers’ Buildings to the I&B ministry on Friday, seeking a postponement. But with the Centre making it clear on Saturday that it would not stop the CAS rollout in Chennai, Mumbai or Calcutta, city service providers were gearing up to scramble pay-channel signals from Monday. This would have meant that viewers without set-top boxes in areas like Alipore, New Alipore and Behala would wake up to blank STAR, Sony, Zee-Turner, ESPN-STAR Sports screens.
“Now, we will have to keep the set-top box regime in abeyance till we hear from the police chief again,” said RPG Netcom CEO Amit Nag. He hoped a “clearer picture” would emerge on Monday evening after the CAS implementation panel meets in Delhi.
The MSOs, having spent substantial amounts on the new technology, are keeping their fingers crossed. “We hope the cloud of confusion clears in a couple of days and CAS rolls out in Zone I by the end of this week,” said Siti vice-president Soumen Roy Chowdhury.
Cable operators, having invested huge sums to upgrade their local networks, are also worried by the delay. “We all want CAS to happen in an organised manner, and are willing to help the state government. However, the next notified date for the rollout should be final and binding,” said Tarak Saha, general secretary, Forum of Cable Operators.
The forum has proposed formation of a CAS committee with representation from the MSOs, broadcasters, cable operators, subscribers and the state administration, and a one-year freeze on pay channel rates “to promote CAS”.