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CAS: No clear picture yet in Mumbai, Kolkata

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Sept. 4

WHEN the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister, Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, returns from his visit to the Venice Film Festival, he'll have his hands full with the implementation of the Conditional Access System (CAS) turning into a messy affair especially in Mumbai and Kolkata.

The Shiv Sena supremo, Mr Bal Thackeray, has called for a meeting with all the cable operators on Sunday to reiterate the party's opposition towards CAS. Sources in the I&B Ministry said that the Central Government would now have to decide whether to go ahead and implement CAS or defer it. "The Government could be in an odd situation wherein if it decides to rollout CAS in Mumbai it will be antagonising the Shiv Sena and enlisting the support of the Congress," said sources. The Minister may also have to hold consultations with the Prime Minister's office (PMO) as it could involve taking a political decision, they added.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal State Government has also not initiated steps to ensure that CAS is rolled out. The State Government is not in favour of holding talks with the Centre and has once again questioned the decision to defer CAS in Delhi.

While the political fraternity in Chennai has not expressed any opposition to CAS, questions are being raised on why the metro is the guinea pig. "There are rumours in the city that CAS would be called off and that most of the pay channels would turn free-to-air (FTA). This has hampered the offtake of set-top boxes," said sources.

The Government, on its part, has asked the multi-system operators (MSOs) to announce their rates and packages for both the consumer and the cable operator. While Hathway has already announced their rates, InCablenet is expected to come out with their packages in the next few days. SitiCable, meanwhile, is also banking on its direct-to-home (DTH) project.

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