Broadcasters jittery of CAS implementation: cable industry

Mumbai: In response to the disconnection by the Zee Turner alliance on the evening of 6 May 2003, INCableNet, a division of Indusind Media and Communications Ltd, has expressed its surprise and deep concern at the 'anti-consumer' step taken by the Zee-Turner alliance.

In a written release, a company spokesperson said: "It is surprising that the Zee group has resorted to disconnection citing non-payment of large amounts when the amounts are well within the normal credit limits given to us. We have always enjoyed excellent business relations with the Zee group and carry all their channels; in fact we carry many of their channels on preferential frequencies."

The Zee group was the first to come forward to announce their arrangements for CAS, announcing their a-la-carte prices last month. INCableNet has been urging the broadcasters to immediately conclude all CAS-related agreements to ensure smooth implementation by the due date of 14 July 2003.

After postponement of a meeting by Zee Turner CEO Sunil Khanna to finalise CAS agreements with INCableNet, the Zee Turner alliance started disconnecting channels one by one, beginning with Alpha Marathi and Alpha Gujarati. Thereafter they switched off all their bouquet channels without any dialogue with INCableNet. They ultimately issued a media release attributing large outstanding as the cause of disconnection.

INCableNet officials attribute Zee's abrupt decision to disconnect services to pressure from other broadcasters who have resorted to similar switch-offs while refusing to sign CAS agreements to form a cartel of sorts to implement a forced price hike under the guise of non-payment and non-execution of the new agreement. "This is a blatant attempt on the part of a virtual cartel to derail a consumer-friendly initiative being taken by the Indian government in public interest."

The INCableNet release added: "It is a well-known fact that despite popular will and legislative intent to mandate CAS, some broadcasters have been making all-out efforts to scuttle CAS. These broadcasters are not confident of immediately succeeding in a post-CAS regime. CAS will empower customers with the choice to select and pay for only the channels they want to watch instead of being forced to accept the arbitrary price hike imposed by broadcasters. Attractive content and value for money pricing will drive customer choice in a post CAS era."