CII-E&Y action report on media to be ready 16 October; moots pricing model for channels

When the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-organised Enter Media 2001 conference ended in Mumbai on 9 August, it had been declared that a white paper would be produced by CII in conjunction with Ernst and Young to go into practical ways of addressing some of the key issues that had been thrown up during the two-day conference.

Well, that report is almost ready and the final touches are being made to it by the CII in conjunction with Ernst and Young. According to Biren Ghose, CEO of UTV Interactive and chairman of the task force assigned the task of preparing the report, it will be out on 16 October.

The report will first be presented to the information and broadcasting ministry before being made public, Ghose says. The dates of the meeting with the I&B ministry officials are yet to be finalised though.

Among the recommendations that are being finalised in the report as far as the television industry is concerned are: 1. The present foreign direct investment ceiling of 49 per cent on broadcasting companies be removed.

2. The government needs to bring in some clarity on direct to home broadcast.

3. The problem of cable operators underdeclaring their subscriber base as well as the interlinked issue of addressability is also being covered in the report, Ghose says.

4. But what is by far the most innovative and unique of the recommendations has got to be a pricing model for channels that the panel is trying to formulate. According to Ghose, the idea is to have a formula whereby, based on a number of parameters, the mean price of any channel can be ascertained. The value that is derived for any channel could form the basis for negotiations between a broadcaster and MSO vis-a-vis subscriber rates. What exactly is the formula the panel is using to derive its pricing mechanism is awaited.

One common thread that ran through the two days that made up the conference was the issue of piracy. Queried as to what measures were being envisioned to address this, Ghose said first the film industry would have to get more involved. Expecting the government to deal with the problem was not realistic. The panel is looking to an anti-piracy corpus made up of contributions from within the industry that will finance the maintenance of an enforcement force whose responsibility it will be to tackle piracy. It will be proposed to the government that it set up some nodal agency that can follow up on any piracy complaints brought to its notice.

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