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Centre not for confrontation over CAS: Prasad

By Our Special Correspondent

GULBARGA Sept. 17. The Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Ravis Shankar Prasad, said here today that the Centre was not for confrontation with the States over the Conditional Access System and would like to have a conducive atmosphere for its implementation.

Talking to presspersons during his visit to the Doordarshan Kendra here, Mr. Prasad said the Government's intention in implementing CAS was to safeguard the interests of the general public and protect them from the increase in the rates of pay channels.

In the past six years, the pay channels had increased their rates drastically, and CAS would lead to competition and help people watch channels at an affordable price.

Mr. Prasad said the initial results of the introduction of CAS in Chennai had been encouraging.

This had helped people to view more than 70 free channels by paying a minimum of Rs. 73 (excluding taxes) a month and the introduction of CAS had also resulted in a few pay channels becoming free channels.

He said the Union Government would provide three alternatives — terrestrial, CAS, and DTH — and would leave the choice to the people. Doordarshan had already decided to introduce DTH; the licence had been given to a company and the installation was likely to begin in two months.

The Minister said the thrust in the proposed 24-hour news channel of Doordarshan, to be introduced in the first week of November, would be on regional coverage.

Mr. Prasad said stress had been laid on the technical improvement and digitalisation of Doordarshan and, during the Tenth Plan Rs. 1,400 crores would be spent for this purpose. The infrastructure for Akashvani would also be improved and Rs. 300 crores had been allocated for it.

He said the Government's aim was to make Doordarshan and AIR technically superior to meet the challenges from other channels.

AIR continued to be the most popular with 35 crore people listening to it, and Doordarshan was a leading channel both with regard to coverage and reach.

`Wage board for scribes under study'

Mr. Prasad said that the constitution of a new wage board for journalists and non-journalists was under Government consideration.

He said a request for the constitution of the wage board had come from unions and the Government would hold discussions with the managements and unions and take a final decision soon.

He told a questioner that the talks with representatives of managements and unions would begin shortly.

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