Indian TV viewers to pay 11 cents a channel each month

NEW DELHI, Sept 1, 2006 (AFP) – Millions of Indian television viewers will pay a maximum five rupees (11 cents) a month for each pay channel under a new system to take effect by the end of the year, the telecommunications regulator said.

The introduction of the conditional access system or CAS will mark a major shake-up in cable distribution in India, the world’s third-largest cable TV market.

“Broadcasters are free to fix prices of individual pay channels within this ceiling,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a statement Thursday.

Until now, the nation’s 63 million cable homes had to pay a fixed rate of up to 350 rupees a month for all pay and free-to-air channels available.

The new conditional access system which will involve renting set top boxes for 30 rupees a month which will be rolled out by December 31 in New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

People who only want free-to-air channels will pay a maximum 77 rupees.

With an economy growing by about eight percent and a burgeoning middle class of up to 300 million people, analysts say the television industry is poised to drive Indian media growth.

Indian broadcasters have advocated the introduction of CAS as cable operators so