Centre decides to resurrect CAS

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry today decided to resurrect the controversial Conditional Access System (CAS) which was put on the back burner by the previous dispensation after efforts to introduce it in the four metropolises of the country ran into rough weather.

A decision to this effect was taken at the 25th Conference of State & Union Territories Ministers of Information & Cinematography after which the Union I&B Minister, S. Jaipal Reddy, said the law — notified in January, 2002 — mandates the introduction of CAS in the four metropolitan cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. As of date, CAS has been introduced only in Chennai.

According to the Minister, it was agreed that a detailed scheme for implementation would be worked out by the Centre in consultation with the States "keeping in view the interest of consumers and the larger investments required by cable operators for digitisation of operations''. But the Government has not set any time frame.

Entertainment tax

States agreed to work towards further reduction of Entertainment Tax (ET) to facilitate the revival of the cinema industry and encouraging multi-plexes. States, according to Mr. Reddy, agreed to scale it down to 25-30 per cent.

The highest rate of ET now is 60 per cent which, according to the Minister, was a marked improvement since about three years ago the highest rate was 150 per cent.

Also, the Ministry has decided to initiate the formulation of an anti-piracy law — a "stand alone optical disc legislation'' — with enough powers to local authorities to enforce it. As to how I&B Ministry would legislate over a matter that is now governed by the Human Resource Development Ministry, Mr. Reddy said: "Whether the law will be piloted by I&B or HRD is a matter of detail, the idea will be initiated by us.''

As part of the effort to address piracy — the bane of the film and music industry — it was decided that video parlours/libraries would be brought under a regulatory regime of local authorities through registration or licensing. "The idea is not to regulate but to check piracy.''

Another decision pertained to mandating that cable operators in future register or renew their licence with District Magistrates/Sub-Divisional Magistrates or Police Commissioners as the case may be instead of the current practice of approaching post offices for the purpose. Further, it was decided that district information and public relation officers would be designated as the nodal officers to collect annual returns from newspapers and pass them on to the Press Registrar.

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