`Choice of media is the prerogative of Indians'

NEW DELHI JULY 3. ``Will the decision on the fate of India's media be decided by Sushma Swaraj or the Murdochs,'' questioned the Member of Parliament, Amar Singh, during a seminar on "Conditional Access System - Techno-Economic Perspectives'', held in the Capital today. Speaking about the "propaganda carried out by STAR TV and other broadcasters opposing the introduction of Conditional Access System,'' Mr. Singh said the decision to accept, or not accept, the system was the prerogative of Indians.

Organised by the Consumer Action Network (CAN), the seminar aimed at highlighting the technical and economic aspects involved in the Conditional Access System (CAS) and the issues currently faced by cable television viewers in the country.

``Today, the viewer does not really have a choice of which channels he wants to receive or not. Since all channels are bundled by the operators, the only choice a viewer has is whether to accept the cable network or not. With CAS, a viewer can choose the channels he want to see and only pay for those, said the national president, CAN, Ahmed Abidi. Arguing against the case of "Direct To Home" (DTH), he added that the service, while appearing to allow the viewer to choose, did not really do so and that it was not a cost-effective option. Introduction of the service would also render several cable operators unemployed. He also argued for freezing rates of cable operators as of December 31, 2001.

Speaking on techno-economic aspects, member, Technical Committee, Information Technology Ministry, V. Khare, highlighted the cost-effectiveness of the CAS. "The viewer can pay for what he chooses to view. There is a one-time cost for the set top boxes - the enabling device of the system -which logically speaking, the customer would have to bear.'' According to estimates presented by him, the basic model of set top system would cost Rs. 3,000 and one with value added services, such as Internet and telephony, could go up to Rs. 7,000 - much lower than the DTH system.

Arguing for the case of CAS, Mr. Amar Singh stated there were two lobbies within Parliament - one which is pro-consumers and the other which is "dancing to the tunes of foreign broadcasters and media persons''. He urged the people and the Government to guard against the "new East India Company''.

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