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Broadcasters lower pay channel rates

July 01, 2003 14:30 IST

Under pressure from the government, broadcasters, including STAR, Discovery, Sony and ESPN Star Sports, on Monday cut the proposed maximum retail prices for their pay channels. Cable operators' margins have been included in the prices released on June 15.

The fresh list was submitted in a meeting attended by Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Secretary Pawan Chopra. Zee Network is yet to release the list of its pay channels.

The government, however, indicated that it would have been happier if the broadcasters came out with lower prices. It also asked the broadcasters to get the prices approved by the cable network companies.

"The broadcasters have given us a price list and we are studying it. The government wants the broadcasters to get the new rates cleared by the cable network companies," said Prasad.

Broadcasters have also told the government that the prices released by them today would not change for six months.

According to officials, the broadcasters also put forward a number of suggestions to the government, including a one-year postponement in the rollout of the conditional access system and allowing broadcasters to offer a channel as pay as well as free to air.

The broadcasters also want a change in the Cable Television Act so that it is not mandatory for cable operators to route pay channels through a set-top box.

The broadcasters also proposed a "dual feed" scheme, which will allow consumers to view pay channels without set-top boxes during the transitory phase, in order to ensure a smooth rollover.

According to Prasad, the government is looking into these options and a decision will be taken in due course.

Stating that CAS would be implemented on July 15 as scheduled, Prasad said the government would look into the suggestion for a dual feed mechanism.

"We are making it consumer-friendly to ensure that there are no black-outs," he said, adding that, "We are looking into issues like availability of set-top boxes and how to ensure that consumers not having a box do not suffer."

According to Prasad, as per the prices announced by the government, the total cost for watching the free-to-air and key pay channels would come to around Rs 200.

The broadcasters present in the meeting include Peter Mukherjea, CEO, Star India, Sameer Nair, COO, Star India, Deepak Shourie, managing director, Discovery, Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, Sony, and Jawahar Goel, additional vice-chairman, Zee.

BS Corporate Bureau in New Delhi