After the removal of CAS, Cable TV operators in Chennai were proposing to charge
RS 350/- per month against Rs 250/- which was being charged before the CAS was
introduced in September 2003.
Now it is reported that the Chennai High Court has issued a stay on the
cancellation of the CAS. This would be welcome temporarily to stop the
possibility of the imposition of the Rs 350 per month service which would have
come to immediate effect.
However this problem needs to be addressed and the responsibility for this mis-adventure
lies squarely with the Ministry of Broadcasting. The entire exercise was handled
very irresponsibly and without consideration of the long term impact on the
consumers and time has come for the Concerned minister to apologise to the
residents of Chennai and also find a solution acceptable to the people of
The recent development with the High Court ruling means that the Act
is still applicable in Chennai and the Government is obligated to implement it
fully. It would be in order for another public interest litigation to force the
Central Government to implement the CAS as it was intended in full.
It is worth repeating that no regulation will be consumer friendly unless the
monopoly on the last mile distribution is broken. It is fruitless for the
Government to try any measure without addressing this need.
According to the Cable TV regulations, every Cable TV operator needs to apply
for registration with the Head Post master of the City. The Cable Operators who
were providing the service prior to the introduction of the law were given 90
days under Section 3 of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995. Now this
time has elapsed in Chennai.
Operators who have not applied for registration automatically lose their right
to carry on their business and the Government has no right to allow them
continue to operate. The responsibility to impose this would naturally be on the
Simultaneously, any new applicant can apply for registration and the registering
authority has the right to reject an application or allow registration of any
number of persons in a locality. If the existing operators do not allow the new
operators to function, again it would be the responsibility of the Police to
protect the Cable network for which the consumer has paid money as well as
protect the right of the new registrant to carry on the business.
In the last three months the existing cable TV operators have flouted the
regulations in many ways such as the following;
1. The Free Channels were required to be provided at RS 72 per month. It was
actually provided in most places at Rs 100 per month.
2. Receipts were required to be issued to the Consumers. It was mostly not
3. Entertainment tax was payable to the State Government. It was mostly not
4. Pay Channels were not allowed to be bunched according to the rules But only
bouquet offers were made available.
5. ESPN and Star required one year commitments which was not allowed.
6. ESPN illegally threatened the restaurants and other establishments from
displaying their Channel to their customers.
In view of the above, none of the existing Cable TV operators would be eligible
to continue even if they make fresh applications and their applications can be
rejected by the registering authority.
In registering the operators, attention should be drawn to undertaking no (iii)
in Form 2 according to which it is mandatory for the operator to provide
satisfactory service. To monitor this, it should be made necessary for renewal
that at least 50 % of the subscribers should certify that the service is
satisfactory and a survey to that effect should be undertaken by an independent
public body such as the Exnora. Also the registration should be cancelled any
time if more than 50 % of the subscribers give an undertaking that the service
is not satisfactory.
Though the primary responsibility for the regulation is that of the Central
Government, it is necessary for the Central Government to appoint an officer in
Chennai (Could be deputed from State Government) to be the controller for the
It is suggested that the TN State Government should interplead on behalf of the
public in the case to request the court for directions that the regulation must
be implemented in full if the stay has to stay and it be appointed as the agency
to implement the regulation. The Central Government may file its no objection so
that the new Cable TV operators can start their operations as quickly as
If there are more than 4 operators start providing the service in each location,
the prices will automatically come down. If there is any tendency to disturb law
and order, the State Government should step in and if necessary take over the
last mile Cable TV distribution as a State Government activity like the liquor
shops and sand quarrying.