Industry concerned over govt's intent on digitization

NEW DELHI: While broadcasters and direct-to-home (DTH) service providers agreed that digitisation would drive the next phase of growth in India, they could not come to an agreement as to how this could be achieved.

Addressing the panel on ‘Building the Digital Eco System‘ at the Sixth India Digital Networks Summit here, Star India CEO Uday Shankar noted that it was time for all stakeholders including broadcasters, multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) to sit together and draw out a roadmap of the country‘s overall digital ecosystem.
He regretted that there were circles that opposed digitisation even as broadcasters stood to lose Rs 15 billion in carriage fees. He also hit hard at the regulator stating that while the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) kept talking about the digital highway, it had only discouraged digitisation.

Voicing similar concerns, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd MD and CEO Punit Goenka stated that since all parties were only concerned with their own interest, no efforts were being made for the welfare of the industry.

However, Bharti Telemedia (Airtel Digital TV) CEO Ajai Puri opined that with India being a large and diverse country, the business models of each had to be different.
He said, "Digitisation will bring transparency. Once everyone pays for what he uses, the whole value chain will reap the benefits."  
Sony Entertainment (now Multi Screen Media) CEO Man Jit Singh pointed out that once digitisation is in place, there will be more money to invest on content. He stressed on the necessity of two revenue streams - advertising as well as distribution. "Broadcasters have not been able to scale up because of price caps and would be able to do so only once they get revenues," he said.

He also showed apprehension at not being given a level playing field in the recent tariff order from Trai, which had fixed channel pricing for digital and addressable systems at 35 per cent of non-addressable cable.

Goenka added that the regulator‘s decision was arbitrary and unfair and was taking the industry backwards instead of tackling the issue of non-addressability.

Nevertheless, Puri added that the problem had been created by the industry. "We have to work aggressively towards digitisation, making it a single point agenda", he added.

Meanwhile Shankar said, "We should not get carried away with the talk of technology. We must exploit the cable and DTH fully first."

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