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Controversy over CAS hots up further
May 24, 2003 20:15 IST
The controversy over the Conditional Access System aggravated further with a forum representing 50 leading consumer groups having a face-off with cable operators over the demand for deferring the July 14 deadline and threats to file Public Interest Litigations in the metros.
Under the banner of the Consumer Coordination Council, representatives of the organisations termed CAS as anti-consumer, favoured setting up of an autonomous regulatory body before its implementation and demanded that pay channels be barred from airing advertisements.
The press conference organised by the consumer groups turned stormy as representatives of cable operators' bodies tried to hijack it, countering their statements and threatening that they would raise cable TV charges to Rs 500 if CAS was not implemented.
Mediapersons protested against the cable operators' barging in and managed to put a few questions in the din.
"We should give the consumer a choice of technology. Direct-to-Home, convergence and CAS should have come together. But now the government is forcing CAS on us," said Varsha Raut, who represents the consumer groups in the Task Force on CAS.
In a statement released in New Delhi, H D Shourie, director, Common Cause, expressed apprehensions that the beneficiaries of CAS will be the cable operators, channel providers and other intermediaries and said there was no alternative but to file a Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court.
"We want deferment of CAS till all issues are sorted out," said S Krishnan, director, CCC, though he did not spell out a time frame.
In a meeting with Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made it clear that consumer interest should be kept in mind amidst signals that government would go ahead with the implementation of CAS as scheduled from July 14.
Prasad, however, refused to answer any other questions about the meeting or the fate of CAS.
Sources said concerns were expressed at the meeting about the prices of set-top boxes, which would be required to access pay channels under CAS, and their availability by July 14.
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