Two sets of motions for interim relief - one before the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on the implementation of Conditional Access System(CAS) from December 31 and another petition by broadcasters for overturning the MRP of Rs 5/month per TV channel - were rejected on Tuesday. This has paved the way for the implementation of Conditional Access in the notified areas of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
In a writ petition filed by an independent operator Rajan Bakshi before the Delhi High Court, a postponement on CAS' rollout was sought on the ground that consumers as well the as service providers were not ready for a switchover from the current flat billing system.
The Conditional Access System is a pay-for-what-you-watch regime where the cable is routed through a set-top box to monitor the channels viewed by the consumer.
In arguments before a bench headed by Justice MK Sharma, the cable operator argued that as a service provider he wanted to offer IPTV services that the new CAS regime had not provisioned for. The court rejected these arguments and said the same court had earlier in 2006 upheld the implementation of CAS on merits.
In a separate hearing by a TDSAT bench headed by J Arun Kumar, motions by several broadcasters including STAR India and Sony Entertainment Television (SET) seeking the quashing of the notification Rs 5 as the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) per channel, were also rejected. However, the judgment on the main petition was deferred. The Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI), that also doubles up as a broadcasting authority for fixing tariffs, had fixed the MRP rates.
The broadcasters' plea against the Rs 5 per month MRP was that such a notification was contrary to the fundamental right of freedom of trade and business. The fixing of an MRP of Rs 5 was also too low a tariff for a running a viable business. The market and the consumer demand should be allowed to dictate the pricing levels, the broadcasters have pointed out.
Hathway Cable & Datacom, a big cable network that intervened in the matter, pointed out that the with a higher base of subscribers under the Conditional Access System, the tariff notified by TRAI was viable. The TRAI also opposed the broadcasters petition.