Pay Channels to Further Hike the Rates?



Consumer Interests are again going for a toss in Chennai's encounter with CAS. The Ministry of I&B officials held a meeting in Chennai with the officials of the TN Government and representatives of Consumer organizations on 9th instant and discussed the issues raised by the public so far.

While the I&B ministry has tried to defend its decision on CAS, it has failed to address any of the consumer complaints.

Firstly, there is no answer to the query "Why Chennai alone?" for introduction of the scheme. Apart from the silence of the State Government there may not be any other reason why Chennai was chosen to be the experimental ground. Probably the Rs 400 crore interest of SCV which is close to NDA must have also had its influence on the decision.

Secondly, consumers had pointed out the absurdity of the SCV proposal to offer STBs only on outright sale basis. Apart from an assurance that the ministry would convince SCV to offer a rental scheme, there is no concrete solution.

More importantly, the Ministry officials have completely ignored the fact that the present Cable TV regime in Chennai is already a monopoly regime where the assistant of a Cable operator does not hesitate to ask a house wife to prostrate before him if the connection has to be given or to ransack the house of a Consumer activist and burn his motorcycle. To give such persons the power of law is like legalizing AK47 for the underworld.

I would like the ministry officials to consider just one thing. Today Can a Chennai Cable TV customer change from SCV to Hathway and Vice Versa whenever he wants?  If not the ministry should admit that the Cable TV industry is not ripe for any kind of CAS regulation. While world over we are talking of market forces controlling the product/service availability to the consumers, CAS ensures that the lack of Consumer freedom is being legalized.

Officials have also denied that the STBs on offer are likely to become obsolete soon and indicated that the SCV's Taiwanese model of STBs is one of the latest available in the market. I wish other technology experts may comment on this.

Yet another pointer to the arrogance of the Cable Operators is the fact that while they have reiterated that it is not economical for them to serve only FTA channels, they have indicated that if Advertisements are to be removed from Pay Channels, the prices have to be further hiked and "Premium Pay Channels" are to be introduced.

According to the earlier Government notification, even the bunched offers of different channels were to be treated as unfair. But the Government seems to have now stopped pointing out to this aspect of pricing while the concept of "premium Pay Channels" which was not heard so far has now been introduced.  Will there be another "Premium Free Channel Service"? only time will tell.

Now that the ball has been brought to the State Government court, any decision taken from now on has to be treated as having the concurrence of the State Government also.   It is reported that concurrence of State Government will also be made mandatory by law in due course.

Apart from taking responsibility for CAS the State Government should also explain how it is fair to charge 27% entertainment tax on FTA channels. (RS 20 on RS 72). Is it not an usurious rate of tax?

Overall, it is clear that Consumer interest is the last of the priorities of the Ministry of I&B. Political compulsions, Vested interests and false prestige are the driving force for the decision to hoist CAS on the Consumers.

Hopefully, the TN State Government will take steps not to allow the Consumer unfriendly provisions of the CAS regime to stay.



September 10, 2003

Related Articles:

Is This the Consumer Friendly CAS that the PM Promised?

"Yes to CAS and No to STB" or "Yes to STB and No to CAS?"

STBs required even for Free Channels??

CAS Regime....Issues still to be Resolved

Spam Enters Indian TV Broadcasting

Hathway Guide  on CAS

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