When the problems associated with CAS
brought to the notice of the Prime Minister Mr Vajapayee a few weeks before
the implementation of the scheme, he had instructed the Ministry of
Information and Broadcasting to ensure that the scheme was "Consumer
Friendly". Mr Ravishankar Prasad the Minister for I & B also stated in a TV
debate that the scheme when introduced would be consumer friendly.
However, Mr Ravishankar could not
convince Ms Sheila Dixit, Mr Bal Thackeray or Mr Buddha dev
Bhattacharya in this matter and finally chose Tamil Nadu as the testing ground
for the scheme.
Customer Unfriendly attitude has
After a week long experience of the
scheme, it is for Mr Ravishankar Prasad and Mr Vajapayee to convince Chennites
how this scheme is to be considered consumer friendly.
An article which
appears in Indian Express today, has highlighted the plight of the
Consumers in the post CAS period in Chennai.
It is important to note that Chennai
Cable scenario is peculiar in the sense that the industry is already notorious
for its customer unfriendliness and CAS is like giving the power of law
to the goons.
Chennai functions under a strict
monopolistic regime of MSO s and as long as their is no freedom for the
people to chose the MSO, all the talk of "Consumer Friendly" regime is an eye
As has been expressed in the previous
articles, though the MSO s agree that STBs are not required for viewing FTA
channels, it is expected that the Cable operators would force them to buy STBs
by backdoor means. Further, the scheme of SCV to offer the MSO specific STB
only on outright sale basis means that the Consumer would lose the freedom of
choice of the supplier for the rest of his life without the losing of the
investment in STBs.
The industry is so unreliable that the
charge of RS 72 (Max) for FTA channels has already become Rs 98 (Minimum).
There is no way consumers can believe that either this 98 will not increase or
the service provided for Rs 98 would not degenerate to the level that it would
be impossible to use the services. Similarly, consumers cannot trust the
Broadcasters not to increase their rates and therefore the Pay Channel
subscription rates are also likely to increase further from the level of
around Rs 400 for all present day cahnnels.
The STBs presently being supplied are of
the lower end and not capable of any value added service such as "Pay Per
View" or "Content on Demand". If such services are required in future, the
consumers would be required to pay more for the upgradation or replacement of
Even the people who pay to get an STB and
to view the pay channels cannot have a peaceful time since under the new
monopolistic regime they will be unable to switch suppliers and cannot resist
any unfair actions of the Cable TV operators.
It is not possible to rely on the
Cable Operators not to charge in cash over and above the published channel
subscription rates under the threat of discontinuing the feed since they can
use the STB to turn off the feed whenever they want. It can even be expected
that they would discontinue the collection service at the customer end and
force the customers to come to their place to pay the monthly subscriptions to
avoid the feed being switched off.
A Political Indiscretion for BJP?
It must be said that the BJP is
doing a great disservice to the Chennai population through the CAS system and
unless they wake up in time, they will have to pay a heavy political price for
their indiscretion. It is time therefore for the Minister of I&B and the PM to
intervene and withdraw the CAS scheme immediately and focus on bringing in
competition in the Cable TV operation in Chennai before attempting any further
A Greater Threat is Looming Large
The anti consumer aspects of the CAS
highlight the problems in store for the citizens of this country when the
Communication Convergence Bill is passed. Once this Bill becomes an act, a
Cable operator can threaten to use law and file cases against any consumer for
misuse of the STB and such offences have possibilities of fines upto RS 2
crores and also imprisonment terms upto 2 years as well as civil liability
upto Rs 50 crores. (Refer Chapter X and Chapter
XVI of CCB).
Consumers should therefore not be
complacent and accept the current regime of regulation which provides the
power of law to the Cable TV operators many of whom have proved in the
past to be untrustworthy. There is a need for a strong action against the
current move to introduce CAS and the focus should be to bring professional
discipline to Cable TV operators and ensure a fair competition in the field. A
Competition will be considered fair only if there are atleast 5 MSOs and the
Consumers are capable of shifting from one to the other without notice.