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.