New Delhi: The government says it would now like to see a ''phased expansion'' of the conditional access system (CAS), and would like to hold a 'focused meeting' to clear important issues before announcing the dates for nationwide implementation, including the issue of piracy.
At a meeting of state governments, broadcasters, cable operators, multi-system operators and consumer organisations, held under the auspices of the information and broadcasting ministry, another important decision was to extend CAS first in the remaining parts of the three metros cities, followed by 55 designated cities.
Reports suggest that one of the most vocal proponents of the CAS system was the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which emphasised that the issues of piracy and quality of service could be resolved as part of the extended rollout.
TRAI reportedly said that piracy was more or less inevitable, unless entire areas under the three metros were included under the CAS ''at one go,'' while suggesting that for any future rollout, a city should be brought under CAS in one go, as opposed to long drawn phases, as a possible solution to the piracy problem.
Of six states called, Gujarat, West Bengal and Karnataka supported the extension of CAS, while Delhi, Haryana and Tamil Nadu did not favour it. The Delhi state government voiced its concerns on piracy, citing the lack of the much anticipated ''remarkable jump'' in revenues that was expected with the implementation of CAS.
The spiralling growth of the direct-to-home (DTH) platform over the last two-odd years is believed to be the reason states and stakeholders alike are now rethinking CAS, ostensibly on account of a somewhat delayed realisation that digitalisation is the way forward for the industry.
There was also a call for the government to subsidise set top boxes, as multi-system operators were not in favour distribution of set top boxes, without being allowed to charge a rental to offset the financial implications of distributing the equipment.
While some state governments abstained from the meeting, sources say that representatives of broadcasters, cable operators, multi-system operators and consumer organisations, as well chief secretaries of a large number of states attended.