Wednesday, Jul 16, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Driving the last nail into the coffin, the National Cable Telecom Association (NCTA) and the Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) the very cable operators who till now have been pushing for the CAS said they would continue with the existing price regime if the Government did not rein in the broadcasters who have been opposed to the duration of the "honeymoon'' offer from the very start.
These cable operators adopted the tough posture in view of the fact that the broadcasters of pay channels had not "kept their end of the bargain''. Quoting the agreement hammered out between cable operators and broadcasters at the Prime Minister's Office on July 4, the COFI president, Roop Sharma, said the latter had been asked to provide fresh rates for their channels by July 15.
"But, not one of them has done so till date despite being told by the Government that the rates quoted by them on June 30 are on the higher side.''
Peeved at the Government's lenient approach towards broadcasters, the cable operators said CAS "was no good as things stand''.
However, having already "put in Rs. 300 crores'' in back-end investments, they find themselves in an unenviable position, and maintained that they would move to the new regime but on their own terms.
With its lone ally turning hostile, the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry officials admitted that it had no means to enforce the "honeymoon'' offer as there was no written agreement. Also, there is no law in place to enforce it.
Though the Ministry has for sometime now been considering a legislation to rein in the broadcasters, this could well take a while as its proposal to promulgate an ordinance to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, was shot down by the Cabinet last week. Meanwhile, with the initial July 15 deadline for CAS deferred and in view of the political pressure against its introduction, the Ministry has become cautious in its advocacy of the new regime. With the certainty with which officials used to tout the July 15 deadline prior to its deferment gone, officials now maintain that "anything is possible'' and "we are open to fresh proposals''.
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