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Ca­ble TV Dig­i­ti­za­tion

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Once upon a time, for many of us life was easy—eas­ier. There weren’t many cars on the road, there weren’t many de­vices to un­der­stand, there wasn’t much need to earn a lot, and just two forms of cricket and one TV chan­nel con­nected all of us. Then, one day, the coun­try sup­pos­edly opened up to cer­tain in­dus­tries and the bom­bard­ment of me­dia houses of the world be­gan, do­ing their job of in­form­ing, en­ter­tain­ing, ed­u­cat­ing, in­flu­enc­ing. And dis­con­nected all of us. What’s the story here?

It be­gan in 1991; the In­dian gov­ern­ment lib­er­al­ized the broad­cast­ing in­dus­try, open­ing it up to ca­ble tele­vi­sion. This led to an ex­plo­sion in the In­dian ca­ble TV in­dus­try and saw the en­try of many for­eign play­ers in­clud­ing big­gies like Ru­pert Mur­doch's Star TV Net­work, MTV and oth­ers.


Ex­actly a decade later, in 2001, when ca­ble was reach­ing al­most ev­ery tele­vi­sion in the coun­try, con­di­tional ac­cess sys­tem (CAS), a dig­i­tal mode of trans­mit­ting TV chan­nels through a set-top box (STB), was in­tro­duced. In CAS, the trans­mis­sion sig­nals are en­crypted and view­ers need to buy a set­top box to re­ceive and de­crypt the sig­nal on to the tele­vi­sion set.

The idea of CAS was mooted due to a furore over charge hikes by chan­nels and sub­se­quently by ca­ble op­er­a­tors. Poor re­cep­tion of cer­tain chan­nels; ar­bi­trary pric­ing and in­crease in prices; bundling of chan­nels; poor ser­vice de­liv­ery by ca­ble tele­vi­sion op­er­a­tors (CTOs); mo­nop­o­lies in each area; and lack of reg­u­la­tory frame­work and re­dress av­enues were some of the is­sues that were to be ad­dressed by im­ple­men­ta­tion of CAS.

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