For many across the globe, television is as compelling an entity as someone to come home to! In India, the TV viewing janta is just as loyal and unapologetic about its fixation for the much chaffed idiot box. Most Indians breathe and live the daily soap sagas on air, but with the onset of the Conditional Access System (CAS) on December 31 in the metros, these favourites have blinked-off the small screen.
Withdrawal pangs: Call it the initial hiccups of introducing a new system, but for the countless saas-bahu addicts, the withdrawal symptoms are very real. Being starved off their staple diet has not gone down well. Under the new regime only those channels will be beamed home that the subscriber pays for. The advantage is that you have a freedom of choice and a slash in expenses on a plethora of unwanted channels that your neighbourhood cablewallah forces upon you.
A set top box with a viewing card are the minimum requirements to access pay channels. This new-found freedom comes for a price — from Rs 999 per set top box to Rs 4,000 for a DTH (direct to home system). Home maker Anupama Sahay says, "It's easier for the higher income group to get the system installed, but shelling out a thousand rupees can be tough on the pocket for many."
Which is why, the reception to CAS has been mixed. Those who are looking for freedom of choice seem enthused. Others are dismayed fearing dry days in entertainment. Even for those who have the paraphernalia in place, life is difficult. The lacklustre service, the high expenses, and the new technology are causing hurdles. For instance, Archana Saxena, an executive, who has welcomed CAS is dogged by installation problems in view of shortage of dish antennas. So how does she deal with “no TV” days? “Well we are making the most of the DVDs.”
Update trauma: It is ironical that the very system that will translate as freedom of choice is presently binding viewers to suffer the bland fare offered by the FTH or free to air channels such as Doordarshan. Mridula Bhatia, a 14-year-old schoolgirl has been on an information over-drive lately. Well under duress. She says, “I have watched more news in the past 10 days than in my entire life!” Some news channels are even offering solace by dishing out updates on the daily soaps.
Mom is happy: Parents, of course, have a different take. Many are relieved to wean their kids off unwanted TV. Parents feel they can blackout the channels they don’t want their kids to watch. But we are sure our couch potatoes of all age groups will find their own way to catch Tulsi and gang. Till then, find other ways to engage yourself.