What Is Conditional Access System (CAS)?
Conditional Access System is a system introduced by the Union of India to regulate the functioning of cable services in India and to give consumers a choice to view and pay for channels of their choice. The Conditional Access System has been introduced under the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002, as per which an addressable system would be required to view “Pay Channels”, while the “Free To Air” channels would be receivable in the current mode, without an addressable system.
A conditional access system comprises a combination of scrambling and encryption to prevent unauthorized reception. Scrambling is the process of rendering the sound, pictures and data unintelligible. Encryption is the process of protecting the secret keys that have to be transmitted with the scrambled signal in order for the descrambler to work. After descrambling, any defects on the sound and pictures should be imperceptible, i.e. the conditional access system should be transparent. The primary purpose of a conditional access system for broad-casting is to determine which individual receivers/set-top decoders shall be able to deliver particular programme services, or individual programmes, to the viewers.
An addressable system is defined under the provisions of the Act as follows:
“addressable system” means an electronic device or more than one electronic devices put in an integrated system through which signals of cable television network can be sent in encrypted or unencrypted form, which can be decoded by the device or devices at the premises of the subscriber within the limits of authorisation made, on the choice and request of such subscriber, by the cable operator to the subscriber;”
As per the provisions of the Act, the Government has issued notifications under which the Government has introduced Conditional Access System initially in certain parts of the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and in the entire city of Chennai.
The cable operators in these areas have been directed to make available set top boxes/ addressable system to the consumers on demand for accessing “pay channels”, while the “free to air” channels could be aired in the current receivable mode, without a set top box. These set top boxes are of two kinds:
(i) Analog Set Top Box
(ii) Digital Set Top Box
The cable television subscribers in these areas can currently view free to air channels by making a payment of Rs.72/- per month to their local cable operator while for accessing pay channels they are required to buy a set top box from their cable operators and further make monthly payments for the pay channels that the subscriber wishes to watch apart from making a payment of Rs. 72/- for basic free to air services. The amount for pay channels would be as decided by the broadcaster or Multi Service Operator.
Why Conditional Access System?
According to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2002, the Conditional Access System is being introduced to check the following irregularities:
(i) Unreasonable costs being charged by cable operators for the cable services being provided to the subscribers
(ii) The subscribers being forced to pay for channels which they do not wish to watch
(iii) Massive under declaration of the number of subscribers by cable operators thus resulting in their making undue profits
(iv) Area-specific monopolistic distribution of cable operators thus leaving the consumer with no option but to comply with the undue demands made by the cable operators.
The Standards of Quality of Service Regulation-23.08.2006 CAS Areas Tariff Order-31.08.2006 CAS Areas Tariff (first amendment)Order-21.11.2006 Interconnection(Second Amendment) Regulation-24.08.2006 Interconnection(Third Amendment) Regulation-4.09.2006
Lacunae In Conditional Access System
Though the Conditional Access System had been notified to be introduced in certain areas of the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and the entire Chennai, however, various lacunae existed in the way the scheme was being introduced in these cities. These included,
(i) No redressal mechanism available under the provisions of the Act for the consumers to redress their grievances
(ii) No provision to check whether the consumers are being supplied set top boxes which follow the BIS standards specified by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
(iii) No provision to check whether the rates at which the set top boxes are supplied are appropriate
(iv) No provision available with the consumers to approach an authority in case of any default in service of set top boxes purchased by them
(v) No specification of rates of pay channels
(vi) No guarantee available to the consumers that their set top boxes would function in case of change of cable operator
(vii) No provision of returning the set top boxes in case the consumer does not require the set top box
(viii) No provision of guarantee of services by the cable operator in case of wear and tear of the set top box or any default in its service
(ix) No provision of renting out the set top box in case the consumer cannot afford to buy the same or does not wish to buy the same
(x) No provision to the consumer to change his cable operator in view of the existing area-specific monopolies
(xi) No information available with the consumer for making an informed choice, well before switching to the Conditional Access System
(xii) No transparency in the implementation of CAS scheme
Efforts Of CCC In Making CAS Consumer-Friendly
Concerned with the haphazard implementation of CAS in the four metro cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, the Consumer Coordination Council along with fifty leading consumer organisations formed an Action Group against CAS to protect the interests of millions of cable television consumers and save billions of rupees that would be wasted through thoughtless implementation of CAS as proposed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
According to the Consumer Organisations, the CAS scheme, which was proposed to be implemented from July 14, 2003 was “anti-consumer”. As per the proposed implementation, the consumers would have had to invest a lot of money, pay a lot more in the monthly fees, and receive a lot less number of channels with absolutely no choice in their hands for deciding on the Free to Air (FTA) or Pay channels, no option available to choose their cable operator, no service quality assurance and no redressal system in place in case of any complaints.
The Consumer Coordination Council made various efforts to convince the Government to take necessary steps before implementing it. Accordingly, a delegation of representatives of Consumer Organisations met the Minister of Information and Broadcasting on 9th June, 2003, putting across their various concerns relating to the arbitrary implementation of CAS. The delegation suggested that CAS should be implemented only after all the key consumer issues are addressed and a Regulatory Mechanism is in place.
The CCC further made a representation to the Prime Minister’s Office on 10th June, 2003 pointing out the lacunae in the CAS scheme and further requested the Prime Minister to ensure that the rights of the consumers are protected before CAS is introduced.
The consumer organizations raised the following key points with the Government:
(i) Why do consumers have to pay for the set top box when the Respondent has clearly stated that CAS is being implemented to address the issue of massive under-declaration of number of homes by the cable operators to the government and the broadcasters?
(ii) Why has the government failed to address the issue of cable monopolies which is the root cause of all consumer complaints?
(iii) Why has the government not protected the consumer interests by specifying the service quality parameters?
(iv) Who will address the consumer complaints as there is no redressal mechanism to offer a relief to the complainant?
(v) Why the issue of under-declaration of subscribers by cable operators should result in consumers having to pay more for seeing less?
(vi) Why is the consumer being forced to buy the set top box without having the choice of price, technology or quality?
(vii) Why is there no transparency and availability of relevant information to the Consumers for making an informed choice, well before CAS is implemented?
(viii) Why does the notification provide for a bundle of only 30 Free To Air (FTA) channels to be decided solely on the whims of the Cable operator when there are more than 75 FTA channels currently available that are relevant to consumers?
(ix) Why has the Act indirectly allowed the cable operator to freely encrypt the FTA channels beyond the prescribed 30 and provide them as pay channels through the set-top-box and charge additional fees?
(x) Why should the Government officiate the amount to be charged by cable operator for what could otherwise be free to the consumer?
(xi) Why does the new system not provide a guarantee that either technically or administratively the correct number of subscribers will be disclosed by MSOs to the broadcasters and the Government? The broadcasters and MSOs will continue to fight over the number of subscribers subscribing to a particular channel. Therefore, instead of finding solution to the problem, the paying consumers would continue to suffer channel black outs and will also be forced to pay.
(xii) Why does the new Act not contemplate the establishment of a regulatory authority to discipline the carriage of broadcasting signals?
However, the Government failed to hear the pleas of the CCC as well as the other consumer organizations and decided to go ahead with its implementation.
CCC & COF File PIL On Conditional Access System
CAS was implemented in the three metros of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai with effect from 1st Sept 2003, whereas, in Delhi its implementation was deferred in view of the impending elections. However, on a petition filed by the cable operators, the Delhi High Court allowed the implementation of CAS in Delhi. As a result CAS was introduced in Delhi with effect from 15.12.2003.
With no other alternative left to protect the rights of the consumers, the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC) along with Consumer Online Foundation (COF) filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Delhi High Court on 16.12.2003 seeking to restrain the implementation of Conditional Access System (CAS) in its present form. The CCC and COF highlighted the various lacunae in the implementation of CAS.
The joint efforts made by the CCC and COF resulted in the High Court issuing an interim order, thereby giving the Union of India a period of three months to resolve the various issues highlighted. The High Court further specified the rates that the cable operator may charge from the consumers for providing set top boxes on hire.
CAS Petition in the News
The petition filed by the CCC and COF in the High Court received extensive media coverage. Some of the news items are reproduced here.
Anti-CAS PIL Filed In Capital, 1st Hearing Wednesday
Source: Indiantelevision.com, Mumbai/ New Delhi, 16th Dec 2003
Ever since the cable fraternity, armed with a High Court order, got the conditional access back onto the front burner, the question has been when would the counter punch come?
That answer was provided today in the form of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed jointly by two consumer bodies in the Delhi High Court against the moves by the cable fraternity to bring addressability into cable & satellite homes.
The joint petition filed by filed by the Consumer Coordination Council, an umbrella grouping of over 50 consumer groups across the country, and the Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum (set up by a group of lawyers) is up for hearing tomorrow. The respondent in the case is the India government through the information and broadcasting ministry.
The petition seeks the intervention of the court against the introduction CAS “in the present manner as envisaged under the amended Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (“The Cable TV Act”).”
The PIL claims that the implementation of CAS across 40 million cable and satellite homes will cost consumers in these cities nearly Rs 160 billion with no commensurate benefits.
The PIL charges CAS as being arbitrary and violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech (what next?) and right against discrimination.
The PIL also states that CAS still fails to address many important issues. Interestingly, two of the charges that have been leveled are that the CAS Act does not address area-specific monopolistic distribution of cable operators and the rights of consumers to decide on the choice of “access device” (set top box).
When contacted by indiantelevision.com, many cable fraternity representatives appeared unaware of the developments and some even went so far as to say that they came to know of it when contacted by indiantelevision.com.
Independent cable operator and head of Home Cable Vikki Choudhry was quite dismissive of the whole thing and said, “It doesn’t make a difference whether a PIL has been filed or not.”
A Hathway Cable and Datacom representative, meanwhile, said, “It has to be seen what is the stand the court takes before commenting.”
Tomorrow could well tell whether this latest PIL around the CAS case serves more than nuisance value.
CAS PIL To Be Heard On Wednesday
Source: Times of India, New Delhi, 16th Dec. 2003
The Consumer Coordination Council and Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum have moved the Delhi High Court, challenging the implementation of conditional access system (CAS).
The public interest litigation (PIL) will be heard on Wednesday. The petition has claimed that the CAS scheme has failed to address important issues like the frequent and arbitrary hikes by the cable operators.
It has also said that there was no regulatory authority to look into the pricing and administration of the broadcast industry. The petitioners, who are a national coalition of 50 leading consumer organisations in the country, claimed that the new law was more concerned with the coercive implementation of the set top boxes.
”In all the other countries, the consumer is given a choice to access his information sources from either the cable lines or the conditional access system,” the petition said.
Delhi Cable Operators’ Goodwill Gesture
Source: Business Line, New Delhi, 16th Dec.2003
DAY 2 of the implementation of the Conditional Access System (CAS) in the Capital saw some concessions from the cable industry, a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Delhi High Court and an overjoyed audience after India’s historic win against the Australians.
In a goodwill gesture, cable operators on Tuesday decided to make available the three major Hindi entertainment channels without set top boxes (STBs) till January 1. After a meeting between the various cable service providers, all other pay channels will be encrypted and will be available through STBs.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Coordination Council and the Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum have filed a PIL against the Government seeking intervention of the Delhi High Court against the introduction of CAS in the present manner as envisaged under the amended Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
It said that on a conservative estimate, the CAS under implementation across the 40-million cable and satellite homes, has been estimated to cost the consumers in these cities nearly Rs 16,000 crore with no commensurate benefit to them.
It further said that the CAS failed to address important issues such as area-specific monopolistic distribution system of cable operators; frequent and arbitrary hikes by cable operators and broadcasters; massive under declaration by cable operators; the absence of a regulatory authority to look into pricing and administration of the broadcast industry as had been directed by the Supreme Court of India in 1995; the rights of the consumer to redressal and information and the rights of the consumer to decide on the appropriate choice of access device.
HC To Hear PIL Against Introduction Of CAS On Friday
Source: Press Trust of India, New Delhi, 17th Dec. 2003
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday posted for Friday the hearing on Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the introduction of Conditional Access System (CAS) in the present manner as envisaged under the Amended Cable Television Network (regulation) Act.
The matter could not reach for hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice B C Patel and Justice Madan B Lokur after a pass over was given to the petitioners.
However, the bench accepted the request of petitioner’s counsel and listed the matter for hearing on Friday.
The PIL filed by consumer body–Consumer Coordination Council (CCC), a national coalition of 50 leading consumer organisations and Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum, an organisation for right to freedom of information–has contended that the impugned act and CAS scheme fails to address consumer issues.
The petitioner has said that the notification on CAS implementation concerns more with the “coercive implementation” of set top boxes upon consumers.
HC To Hear PIL Against Introduction Of CAS On Friday
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, 17th Dec. 2003
The Delhi High Court today posted for Friday the hearing on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the introduction of Conditional Access System (CAS) in the present manner as envisaged under the amended Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act.
The matter could not reach for hearing before a Bench comprising Chief Justice B C Patel and Justice Madan B Lokur after a pass over was given to the petitioners.
However, the Bench accepted the request of petitioner’s counsel and listed the matter for hearing on Friday.
The PIL filed by consumer body — Consumer Coordination Council (CCC), a national coalition of 50 leading consumer organisations and Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum, an organisation for right to freedom of information — has contended that the impugned Act and CAS scheme fails to address consumer issues.
The petitioner has said that the notification on CAS implementation concerns more with the “coercive implementation” of Set Top Boxes (STB) upon consumers.
Anti-CAS PIL Hearing Postponed Till Friday
Source: Indiantelevision.com, New Delhi, 17th Dec. 2003
Delhi’s cable fraternity is breathing a sigh of relief following the postponement of a hearing on a public interest litigation (PIL) in a Delhi court till 19 December.
Now the industry has got time till Friday to chalk out a strategy on CAS (conditional access system).
The joint petition was filed yesterday by Consumer Coordination Council (CCC), a coalition of 50 consumer bodies and Consumer Online Foundation (COF) set up by lawyers.
The first hearing which was scheduled earlier today could not be heard by the court as the counsel for the petitioners was not fully prepared and had not arrived, sources said.
The petitioners have alleged that CAS, in its present form is anti-consumer, and that the government has not woven in proper safety measures for the people before mandating the law.
For example, there is no body or a platform that a consumer can approach if the cable operators don’t provide after-sales and maintenance services for the set-top boxes (STBs) sold to them for addressability.
Seeking a regulatory body like the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) to be put in place before CAS is rolled out, the petitioners have said, “On a conservative estimate, CAS under implementation across the 40 million cable and satellite homes has been estimated to cost the consumers nearly Rs 160,000 million with no commensurate benefit to the consumers.”
TRAI has pleaded that the government had acted in a partisan manner by pointing out that “the Act (facilitating rollout of CAS), on the contrary, is unconstitutional, anti-consumer, a burden on the national exchequer and a colorable exercise of power by the respondent (the Union of India through the I&B ministry).”
Meanwhile, having woken up in the morning to this new twist in the tale, the multi-system and cable operators said that “vested interests” were trying to derail the CAS implementation process, something that was showing signs of picking up in South Delhi areas after a not-so-successful playout in Chennai.
The Delhi government’s entertainment tax department also released ads in the dailies today informing consumers about the ‘dos and don’ts of CAS’.
As stated earlier by indiantelevision.com, the cable ops also reiterated yesterday that consumers would continue getting entertainment channels like Star Plus, Sony and Zee TV as usual.
Court To Hear Petition Against CAS Friday
Source: newkerala.com, New Delhi, 17th Dec. 2003
The Delhi High Court Wednesday could not take up a public interest petition challenging the central government’s decision to implement the conditional access system (CAS) and deferred it for Friday.
When the petition came up for hearing before a division bench comprising judges B.C. Patel and Madan B. Lokur, it was passed over to be taken up after the conclusion of hearing of all the other cases listed for the day by the bench.
By the time the bench finished those cases, it was time to wrap up for the day.
On a request by the petitioners, Consumer Coordination Council and the Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum, the bench decided to hear the case Friday.
The petitioners have urged the court to direct the government to implement the system in a way in which the rich as well as the poor can avail it.
The petition said that the world over, consumers were given a choice to access their information/entertainment sources through either cable lines or CAS but in India, the government had imposed one technology on television viewers.
Consumers in a developing country like India could not afford the required set-top boxes, priced at between Rs.6,000 and Rs.7,000, and the equipment was not vital to the economic interests of the country, the petitioners said.
On a conservative estimate, if CAS is implemented for about 40 million cable subscribers across the country, subscribers would have to collectively cough up Rs.160 billion with no commensurate benefits to them, the petition said.
The petitioners also said the government had failed to address the important issues of area specific monopolistic distribution systems, frequent and arbitrary hikes in rates of subscription money by cable operators and broadcasters, and under declaration of the numbers of subscribers by cable operators.
S Delhi Cable Operators Offer Hefty Price Discounts On Pay Channels
Source: Press Trust of India, New Delhi, 17th Dec. 2003
Cable operators on Wednesday began offering pay channel bouquets at about 50 per cent discounted prices in South Delhi since most consumers are wary of the steep increase in the cable bill under CAS and are yet to invest in set top boxes.
Leading MSO Hathway has offered a package at almost half the earlier rate wherein various pay channels except those on the Zee bouquet are offered for only Rs 149 per month.
Siti Cable and other multi system operators are also offering similar packages in a bid to attract consumers and ensure a smooth rollout of the much-delayed CAS, industry sources said.
These price discounts follow close on the heels of cable operators announcing a partial rollback on Tuesday by offering three Hindi entertainment channels – Zee TV, Sony and Star Plus – without STBs till January 1 next year.
Also, in a related development, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday posted for Friday the hearing on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging CAS introduction in the present manner as envisaged under the amended Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act.
The PIL was filed by Consumer Coordination Council (CCC), a national coalition of 50 leading consumer organisations and Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum, contending that the impugned Act and CAS scheme fails to address consumer issues.
CAS: Consumer Bodies To File New Petition
Source: rediff.com, 19th Dec. 2003
The Delhi high court on Friday gave liberty to the consumer bodies, which have challenged the introduction of conditional access system, to file fresh petition before a vacation bench as their public interest litigation was not heard due to paucity of time.
Observing that the issue concerns the implementation of CAS, a bench comprising Chief Justice B C Patel and Justice A K Sikri said that if the petitioners think that the matter was of urgent public interest they could move a petition before a vacation bench for early hearing.
Today was the last working day of the court before the winter vacation and the PIL challenging the introduction of CAS in the present manner, as envisaged under the amended Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, did not reach for hearing.
The PIL filed by Consumer Coordination Council, a national coalition of 50 consumer organisations, and Consumers’ Online Foundation Forum, a body campaigning for the right to freedom of information, has contended that the impugned Act and CAS scheme fail to address consumer issues.
The petitioner has said that the notification on CAS implementation concerns more with the “coercive implementation” of set top boxes upon consumers.
Consumer Bodies Seek High Court Stay On CAS
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, 23rd Dec. 2003
A body of 50 consumer organisations has challenged the implementation of conditional access system (CAS) in South Delhi.
Consumer Coordination Council filed a petition before the high court on Monday and sought a stay on the implementation of CAS.
Although the high court did not pass a stay order, it has directed the Union government to file a reply to 20 queries of consumers, raised in the petition.
“The matter will be heard on December 26. After hearing the government’s reply to the questions, the court will decide whether to stay CAS or not,” said Sanjay Jain, advocate for the Union government.
The queries which the petition has forwarded to the government pertain to the set-top box and its non-availability in the market.
The petition has accused the government for not taking action to manufacture set-top boxes (STB) in the country, even though CAS has been on the anvil for a long time.
It has also asked the government if the STB would be installed free of cost.
The petition has also raised queries regarding free-to-air channels and the cable operator’s decision to select them. The consumers have claimed that they only know about the three Doordarshan channels which are being shown free of cost and are unaware about the remaining 69.
The petition claims it is unfair since the consumers would be forced pay for channels which they do not want to watch.
The petition has criticised the decision of broadcasters to provide their channels in a bouquet for a specific amount since the consumers would be once again forced to spend for channels which they are not interested in watching.
While posing similar questions, the petition has claimed that CAS is an obsolete technology since the STB has to be changed if a consumer shifts residence.
“The STB has to be configured according to the cable operator’s machinery,” the petition claimed.
It has also talked about the Communication Convergence Bill, 2000, which is pending in the Parliament. The petition states that once this bill is passed, the Cable Television Network Act would become redundant.
High Court Refuses To Restrain Centre On CAS
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, 26th Dec. 2003
The Delhi High Court today refused to restrain the Union Government from implementing the Conditional Access System (CAS) for TV watchers in Delhi as prayed by a public interest litigant.
A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, however, allowed the Government to go ahead with the implementation of the system subject to its judicial review after three months.
The Bench expressed the hope that the Government would take remedial measures to redress grievances of the subscribers, and difficulties, if any, arising out of the implementation in the three-month period.
On the next date of hearing, after expiration of the three-month period, appropriate direction shall be issued after taking into consideration the feed back on the basis of three months’ experiences, the Bench said.
The petition, filed by an association of consumer 50 organisations, will now come up for hearing on April 5.
The two judges allowed implementation of the system on their belief that every new technology should be a given a chance and that trial and error is an inbuilt part of experiments to attain perfection.
On the desire of the Union Government to have a regulatory body to see the implementation of the system, the Bench directed the Centre to inform the court of the steps taken in this direction.
With regard to complaints of deficiency of service by the cable operators or the multi-system operators (MSOs) or the broadcasters, the Court said that it could be dealt as deficiency in service under the relevant consumer laws.
The petitioner was also of the plea that it was not against the introduction of the new technology but the manner in which it was being implemented.
It urged the court to direct the Government to implement the system in a way in which the rich and the poor were simultaneously able to avail of the new technology.
It said that the world over, consumers were given choices to access their information/entertainment sources through either cable lines or CAS but here the Government had imposed a particular technology on television viewers.
Consumers in a developing country like India could not afford Set Top Boxes priced at between Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 7,000, and also the equipment was not vital to the economic, financial or securities interests of the country, the petitioner said, adding that the consumers suffered the most in this exercise.
TRAI Appointed As Regulatory Authority
In view of the directions issued by the High Court of Delhi, the Union of India appointed TRAI as the regulatory authority for overlooking the implementation of CAS.
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Department of Telecommunications
In exercise of the powers conferred by the proviso to clause (k) of Sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (24 of 1997), the Central Government hereby notifies the broadcasting services and cable services to be telecommunication service.
Dy. Secy (Restg.)
TRAI’s Consultation Paper On Conditional Access System
TRAI issued a consultation paper on CAS on 15th January inviting comments from interested parties on the various issues. The deadline for submitting comments was 30.01.2004.
Consultation Note No. 3 of 2004
TELECOM REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF INDIA
Issues relating to Broadcasting and Cable Services
January 15, 2004
Table of Contents
3. Issues involved
Annexure – I
Annexure – II
Annexure – III
Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 was amended in the year 2002 and section 4A was inserted in the original Act which envisages transmission of programmes through addressable system (popularly referred to as Conditional Access System (CAS)) with effect from such date as may be specified in the Notification. Following various Notifications and Court interventions, the Conditional Access system is applicable in Chennai and certain areas of Calcutta, Mumbai and NCT of Delhi. In certain areas of Delhi, following the Hon’ble Delhi High Court orders dated 26.12.2003, the implementation of CAS is to continue for a period of three months on a trial basis after which the Court would give further directions taking into consideration the feed back of three months’ experience.
2. The Government of India issued a Notification No.39 dated 09.01.04 whereby the scope of the expression ‘telecommunication services’ (defined in Section 2 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 as amended) was expanded to include the broadcasting services and cable services also. Consequently the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is entrusted with the basic task of regulation of cable and broadcasting services in the country.
3. There is considerable uncertainty about different aspects of the CAS regime and a detailed examination is required of the various issues including the rates for the broadcasting and cable services in CAS and non-CAS areas, and the conditions at which the addressable systems are made available by the cable operators. Not only are there no standard rates or conditions at which services are provided by the cable operators to the customers, there are reports that there may be an increase in the rates charged to the customer. The Authority has, therefore, begun its process of examination of the relevant issues including those relating to CAS through a consultation process.
4. The enclosed Consultation Note is the first step towards a meaningful examination of the relevant issues mentioned above and would provide the necessary platform for discussing them. The comments and other inputs provided by the stakeholders would enable the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to formulate a more detailed Consultation Paper with a view to evolving appropriate policies for the orderly growth of the cable and broadcasting services in the country. The Consultation Note has already been placed on TRAI’s website (www.trai.gov.in).
5. Written comments on this Consultation Note may be furnished to the Secretary, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India by 30th January 2004. It would be appreciated if the response is accompanied with an electronic version of the text through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The fax
number of TRAI is 011-26193294.
( Pradip Baijal)
Dated 15th January 2004.
CONSULTATION NOTE ON SOME ISSUES RELATING TO
BROADCASTING AND CABLE SERVICES
This Consultation Note seeks to address the issues regarding tariffs of broadcasting and cable service and problems arising out of the application of Conditional Access System (CAS) in certain areas. This Paper is in two Sections. Section I deals with the background of the issue; and Section II deals with the issues involved.
2. Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 was amended in 2002 and Section 4A was inserted in the original Act which envisages “Transmission of programmes through addressable system” (popularly referred to as Conditional Access System (CAS) with effect from such date as may be specified in the Notification. A Notification dated 14th January 2003 was issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India making it obligatory for every cable operator to transmit/re-transmit programmes of every pay channel through an addressable system in Chennai Metropolitan area, Municipal Council of Greater Mumbai area, Kolkata Metropolitan area and National Capital Territory of Delhi within six months from 15th day of January, 2003.
Subsequently vide Notification dated 10th July, 2003 the date of implementation was deferred and fixed within six months from 1st March, 2003, and Chennai and the areas of NCT of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai to be covered by CAS were also specified. Thereafter vide Notification dated 29th August, 2003, the earlier Notification dated 10th July, 2003 was amended and areas in NCT of Delhi where CAS was to be implemented were deleted.
3. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, vide orders dated 4th December 2003, quashed the Notification dated 29th August 2003 issued by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. The cable operators of the notified areas partially withdrew pay channels from mid-night of 15th December 2003.
4. Delhi High Court in CW no. 8993-4/2003 in its order dated 26.12.03 allowed the implementation of CAS in Delhi. The Delhi High Court further directed that after expiry of three months, appropriate direction shall be issued after taking into consideration the feed back of three months’ experience.
5. The Government of India issued a Notification No.39 dated 9th January 2004 (copy of the Notification is at Annexure I) under the proviso to clause (k) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the TRAI Act 1997 as amended, (copy of the provisions of Section 2 of the TRAI Act is at Annexure II) whereby the scope of the expression ‘telecommunication services’ under the TRAI Act was increased to include the broadcasting services and cable services also. Thus, the broadcasting and cable services also came within the purview of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Through this Notification, the Government of India, in exercise of the powers under clause (d) of sub-section (1) of section 11 (copy of the provisions of Section 11 of the TRAI Act is at Annexure III), further authorised the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to specify inter alia standard norms for and periodicity of revision of rates of pay channels including interim measures. The said notifications further authorised TRAI to make recommendations on the parameters for regulating maximum time for advertisements in pay channels and other channels, and the terms and conditions for “addressable systems” provided to subscribers.
6. Under Section 11(4) of the TRAI Act, the Authority has to ensure transparency while exercising its powers and discharging its functions.
The normal practice followed in the TRAI is to decide on issues following a consultation process with stakeholders. In this case too, the Authority is examining various issues and will be conducting consultations. This Consultation Note seeks inputs on a number of policy issues, so as to prepare a more detailed Consultation Paper.
7. Issues involved:
a) The norms for fixing rates (or ceiling rates) for cable subscribers/ cable operators / Multi Service Operators for individual pay channels, bouquets thereof, and distribution of free-to-air channels; whether this should be uniform in areas under CAS and non-CAS areas or whether it should be different; other principles for determining the above mentioned rates, including periodicity of revision.
b) Regulation regarding rates of cable operators, including periodicity of change of monthly cable charges in non-CAS areas and the maximum percentage change to be allowed at any one time.
c) Principles governing the sharing of pay channel charges between broadcasters, Multi Service Operators and local cable operators.
d) The principles for laying down limits as to the extent of bundling of pay channels to be allowed in order to ensure that Cable TV viewers have a genuine choice with regard to selection of pay channels, e.g. to ensure that bundling does not discourage selection of individual channels.
e) The standard terms and conditions under which set top boxes may be made available (sale/rental) to subscribers in CAS areas and refund of charges deemed inappropriate.
f) The conditions under which consumers may return set top boxes sold or rented to them by service providers and ask for a refund;
g) The compensation to be paid by cable operators to viewers who have ordered pay channels if transmission is interrupted for more than a specified portion of prime time (e.g.10%) in a month or in the case of a sports channel, a similar portion (10%) of the time during an important sports event. The principles for sharing this compensation between broadcasters, Multi Service Operators and local cable operators.
h) The principles to be followed for laying down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the cable operators / Multi Service Operators / Broadcasters and for ensuring the quality of service and conduct of periodic survey of such service provided by the Cable Operators / Multi Service Operators / Broadcasters so as to protect the interests of the consumers of Broadcasting and Cable Services.
i) Measures to increase competition, promote efficiency and encourage wider consumer choice in the operation of Broadcasting and Cable services so as to serve consumer interests and to ensure the availability of services in rural and remote areas.
j) Measures for the development of Broadcasting and Cable services technology (including Direct-to-Home and Broadband) and any other matter relatable to this industry, in general.
k. Advertisements on TV channels
(i) the maximum advertising time to be permitted per half-an hour on free-to-air channels along with other conditions that are required to be imposed;
(ii) the further regulation of advertising on pay channels in reference to tariffs for the channels;
(iii) whether the restrictions at (i) & (ii) above should apply to both CAS and non-CAS areas uniformly or whether differential treatment is called for.
8. Comments and other inputs are requested on the above issues and any other related matter. Please note that the comments relating to broadcasters should include issues relevant also for authorized distributors and advertising sales agencies of pay satellite channels.
9. The Authority invites written responses from all interested parties by 30th January, 2004. It would be appreciated if the response is accompanied with an electronic version of the text through email.
The communication may be sent to Dr. Harsha Vardhana Singh,
Secretary, TRAI (email@example.com) or to Shri Rajan Singla, Advisor (firstname.lastname@example.org). The fax number of TRAI is 011-26193294.
ANNEXURE – I TO THE CONSULTATION NOTE
NOTIFICATION NO. 39
[DATED 09.01.2004 ]
MINISTRY OF COMMUNCIATION AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
(Department of Telecommunications)
New Delhi, the 9th January, 2004
S.O. 44(E). – In exercise of the powers conferred by the proviso to clause (k) of Sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (24 of 1997), the Central Government hereby notifies the broadcasting services and cable services to be telecommunication service.
[F.No. 13-1/2004 – Restg.]
P.K. TIWARI, Dy. Secy (Restg.)
New Delhi, the 9th January, 2004
S.O. 45(E). – In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (d) of Sub-clause (1) of Section 11 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (24 of 1997) (hereinafter referred to as the Act), the Central Government hereby entrusts the following additional functions to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, established under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, in respect of broadcasting services and cable services, namely:-
(1) Without prejudice to the provisions contained in clause (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section 11 of the Act, to make recommendation regarding –
(a) the terms and conditions on which the “Addressable systems” shall be provided to customers
Explanation – For the purposes of this clause, “addressable system” with its grammatical variation, means an electronic device or more than one electronic devices put in an integrated system through which signals of cable television network can be sent in encrypted or unencrypted form, which can be decoded by the device or devices at the premises of the subscriber within the limits of authorization made, on the choice and request of such subscriber, by the cable operator for that purpose to the subscriber,
(b) the parameters for regulating maximum time for advertisements in pay channels as well as other channels.
(2) Without prejudice to the provisions of Sub-section(2) of Section 11 of the Act, also to specify standard norms for, and periodicity of, revision of rates of pay channels, including interim measures.
[F.No. 13-1/2004 – Restg.]
P.K. TIWARI, Dy. Secy (Restg.)
ANNEXURE – II TO THE CONSULTATION NOTE
SECTION 2 OF THE TRAI ACT, 1997
2. (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires:-
a. “appointed day” means the date with effect from which the Authority is established under sub-section (1) of section 3;
(aa) “Appellate Tribunal ” means the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal established under section 14.
b. “Authority” means the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India established under sub-section (1) of section 3;
c. “Chairperson” means the Chairperson of the Authority appointed under sub-section (3) of section 3;
d. “Fund” means the Fund constituted under sub-section (1) of section 22;
e. “licensee” means any person licensed under sub-section (1) of section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (13 of 1885) for providing specified public telecommunication services;
(ea) “licensor” means the Central Government or the telegraph authority who grants a license under section 4 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (13 of 1885).
f. “member” means a member of the Authority appointed under
sub-section (3) of section 3 and includes the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson;
g. “notification” means a notification published in the Official Gazette;
h. “prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act;
i. “regulations” means regulations made by the Authority under this Act;
j. “service provider” means the Government as a service provider and includes a licensee;
k. “telecommunication service” means service of any description (including electronic mail, voice mail, data services, audio tex services, video tex services, radio paging and cellular mobile telephone services) which is made available to users by means of any transmission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images and sounds or intelligence of any nature, by wire, radio, visual or other electro-magnetic means but shall not include broadcasting services;
PROVIDED that the Central Government may notify other service to be telecommunication service including broadcasting services.
(2) Words and expressions used and not defined in this Act but defined in the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (13 of 1885) of or the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 (17 of 1933) shall have the meanings respectively assigned to them in those Acts.
(3) Any reference in this Act to a law which is not in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall in relation to that State be construed as a reference to the corresponding law, if any, in that State.
ANNEXURE – III TO THE CONSULTATION NOTE
SECTION 11 OF THE TRAI ACT, 1997
11. Functions of Authority
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Telegraph Act,1885 (13 of 1885), the functions of the Authority shall be to-
(a) make recommendations, either suo motu or on a request from the licensor, on the following matters, namely:-
(i) need and timing for introduction of new service provider;
(ii) terms and conditions of licence to a service provider;
(iii) revocation of licence for non-compliance of terms and conditions of licence:
(iv) measures to facilitate competition and promote efficiency in the operation of telecommunication services so as to facilitate growth in such services.
(v) technological improvements in the services provided by the service providers.
(vi) type of equipment to be used by the service providers after inspection of equipment used in the network.
(vii) measures for the development of telecommunication technology and any other matter relatable to telecommunication industry in general;
(viii) efficient management of available spectrum;
(b) discharge the following functions, namely:-
(i) ensure compliance of terms and conditions of license;
(ii) notwithstanding anything contained in the terms and conditions of the license granted before the commencement of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Act, 2000, fix the terms and conditions of inter-connectivity between the service providers;
(iii) ensure technical compatibility and effective interconnection between different service providers;
(iv) regulate arrangement amongst service providers of sharing their revenue derived from providing telecommunication services;
(v) lay down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers and ensure the quality of service and conduct the periodical survey of such service provided by the service providers so as to protect interest of the consumers of telecommunication service;
(vi) lay down and ensure the time period for providing local and long distance circuits of telecommunication between different service providers;
(vii) maintain register of interconnect agreements and of all such other matters as may be provided in the regulations;
(viii) keep register maintained under clause (vii) open for inspection to any member of public on payment of such fee and compliance of such other requirement as may be provided in the regulations;
(ix) ensure effective compliance of universal service obligations:
(c) levy fees and other charges at such rates and in respect of such services as may be determined by regulations.
(d) perform such other functions including such administrative and financial functions as may be entrusted to it by the Central Government or as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act:
Provided that the recommendations of the Authority specified in clause (a) of this sub-section shall not be binding upon the Central Government:
Provided further that the Central Government shall seek the recommendations of the Authority in respect of matters specified in sub-clauses (i) and (ii) of clause (a) of this subsection in respect of new licence to be issued to a service provider and the Authority shall forward its recommendations within a period of sixty days from the date on which that Government sought the recommendations:
Provided also that the Authority may request the Central Government to furnish such information or documents as may be necessary for the purpose of making recommendations under sub-clauses (i) and (ii) of clause (a) of this sub-section and that Government shall supply such information within a period of seven days from receipt of such request:
Provided also that the Central Government may issue a licence to a service provider if no recommendations are received from the Authority within the period specified in the second proviso or within such period as may be mutually agreed upon between the Central Government and the Authority:
Provided also that if the Central Government, having considered that recommendation of the Authority, comes to a prima facie conclusion that such recommendation cannot be accepted or needs modifications, it shall refer the recommendation back to the Authority for its reconsideration, and the Authority may, within fifteen days from the date of receipt of such reference, forward to the Central Government its recommendation after considering the reference made by that Government. After receipt of further recommendation, if any, the Central Government shall take a final decision.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (13 of 1885), the Authority may, from time to time, by order, notify in the Official Gazette the rates at which the telecommunication services within India and outside India shall be provided under this Act including the rates at which messages shall be transmitted to any country outside India;
Provided that the Authority may notify different rates for different persons or class of persons for similar telecommunication services and where different rates are fixed as aforesaid the Authority shall record the reasons therefor.
(3) While discharging its functions under sub-section (1) or subsection (2), the Authority shall not act against the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality.
(4) The Authority shall ensure transparency while exercising its powers and discharging its functions.
TRAI Issues Clarifications
TRAI issued the following clarifications on its order dated 15.01.2004 defining the extent of its powers, the charges applicable and the remedies available;
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
Press Release No. 13/2004
19th February, 2004
Clarifications on The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Tariff Order 2004
After announcement of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Tariff Order 2004, a number of questions have been raised in regard to the underlying import of the provisions of the aforesaid Order. These are answered below:
Q 1: What is the coverage of The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Service Tariff Order 2004 dated 15.01.2004?
Ans: The said order shall cover, throughout the territory of India, both for CAS and non-CAS areas, charges payable by
a) Cable subscribers to cable operator;
b) Cable operators to Multi Service Operators/Broadcasters (including their authorized distribution agencies); and
c) Multi Service Operators to Broadcasters (including their authorized distribution agencies).
Q 2: What is meant by word “charges” mentioned in the Tariff Order?
Ans: ‘Charges’ mean and include the charges/tariff rates payable by one party to the other by virtue of the formal/informal Agreement prevalent on 26th December 2003. The principle applicable in the formal/informal Agreement prevalent on 26th December, 2003, should be applied for determining the scope of the term “charges”. For instance,
– if under the Agreement applicable as on 26th December, 2003 specified the total amount as rate or charge per subscriber, multiplied by the subscriber base, the ceiling applies to the per subscriber charge and not to the subscriber base.
– if earlier the amount paid varied on certain limited occasions linked to the likely change in the subscribers base for a specified short period, such a practice could still continue. However, the charge per subscriber in such cases should not be more than those applicable on 26th December 2003.
Q 3: What about the charges if the cable service provider gives lesser number of channels compared to those shown on 26th December 2003?
Ans: The ceiling charges are specified in terms of the products that they pertained to, namely the channels that were shown on 26th December 2003. Normally, there should not be a reduction in the number of channels shown on 26th December 2003. If, however, due to certain unavoidable reasons, the number of channels is reduced, the charges should also be reduced on a pro-rata basis.
Q 4: What about the situation where the channel or cable service was not available on 26th December, and the channel or cable service is being provided after this date?
Ans: In such cases, the Tariff Order does not provide any specific ceiling, and the formal/informal Agreements regarding such charges could be entered into by the relevant parties. However, in specifying the relevant charges, the charges that the broadcaster/Multi System Operator/Cable Operator might have in place in the contiguous areas/similar channels as on 26th December 2003 should be kept in mind.
Q 5: Will the TRAI intervene, in case the subject matter of dispute between two service providers relates to “the number of subscribers”?
Ans: The remedy in this case would lie in
– a civil court;
– Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), under section 14 of the TRAI Act.
Q 6: Whether individual subscribers can file complaints with the TRAI?
Ans: Under the TRAI Act, the TRAI does not deal with complaints from individual subscribers/consumers for whom redressal mechanism is available before a Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum or a Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission or the National Consumer Redressal Commission established under section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (68 of 1986).
Q 7: What is the remedy available for contravention of The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Service Tariff Order 2004?
Ans: In case of any violation of TRAI’s Order/Directive/Regulation, if a complaint is filed with TRAI with properly documented evidence, TRAI would, after examining the matter give a direction that the Order be followed. If the Order is still not followed, the TRAI has the option of filing a complaint before the appropriate courts under section 29 and 30 read with section 34 of the TRAI Act.
Q 8: What is the remedy available to the stakeholders in case of a dispute between two or more service providers or between a service provider and a group of consumers?
Ans: In case of a dispute between two or more service providers or between a service provider and a group of consumers, the dispute may be referred to Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) under section 14 of the TRAI Act.
For more information please see Section 11, 13 and 14 of the TRAI Act on the TRAI website www.trai.gov.in.