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India imposes cable rate regs

Set-top roll out should be complete Dec. 1

India’s government has backed down and postponed the introduction of the conditional access system, enabling subscribers to pay for channels they watch rather than a bouquet, from July 15 to Sept. 1.

CAS, in which the signal reaches subscribers via a set-top box, will be soft-launched in parts of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The roll out should be complete Dec. 1

From August 1, consumers will pay a flat rate of Rs 72 ($1.50) plus local taxes per month till CAS is implemented in their area. The government said broadcasters had agreed to waive their subscription for this period.

The rate only applies to the trial areas and not to the rest of the country, where the current system will remain.

However, there appears to be a major disconnect between the government and broadcasters over the pricing.

Broadcasters say the $1.50 rate is applicable only for a month before the rollout in any area. In south Delhi, where CAS is to be implemented on Sept.1, subs will pay cut rates from August 1.

Confusion has surrounded the implementation of CAS, which was supposed to cut rates for most viewers. However, cable operators had threatened to double prices last week, forcing the government rethink.

About 6 million subs in the four metro areas have pay TV. The government cannot afford to upset — especially as New Delhi gears up for elections in the next couple of months.

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