IBF raises CAS rollout issue with Prasad

NEW DELHI: New minister of state for information and broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad today impressed upon the broadcasting fraternity that content on television should be such that it can be viewed by the whole family and also also touched upon the lampooning of Gandhiji by MTV for which the company has already apologised.

In turn, the broadcasting fraternity, under the aegis of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), brought the minister up to scratch on the various issues the industry was concerned about. In the course of the discussions it was mentioned that DTT (digital terrestrial telecast) and terrestrial transmission should also be thrown open to private participation, a la FM radio.

In a rare show of bonhomie, maybe because of difficult times being faced by the broadcasting and cable industry, the top IBF delegation comprised representatives from all the top media/broadcasting companies operating in India.

"The introductory meeting with the minister was positive, "Sony Entertainment TV India's chief executive Kunal Dasgupta, told after coming out of the meeting with Prasad.

He added: "Our concerns like the smooth implementation of conditional access and the resulting transparency that has been promised to broadcasters was also conveyed to the minister. The minister was appreciative of the concerns."

The talking points during the meeting also included a clear and smooth roadmap for CAS rollout, a transparent and equitable distribution of revenue amongst the stakeholders (not happening at the moment as per the broadcasting industry), the slow pace of growth of the ad industry and a the continued need for a proactive minister (like Sushma Swaraj).

Essel group's additional vice-chairman and Siti Cable head Jawahar Goel, younger brother of Zee supremo Subhash Chandra, said: "The meeting was more of us listening to what the new minister had to say. But some important issues were brought up which the minister said he'd look into like the news channel uplinking issue."

According to an IBF member, who did not want to be identified, "The minister listened to us, but made clear that if he is assuring a transparent functioning of the ministry, he expects that the broadcasters should also be sensitive to the need of India and its culture and hinted that some self-censorship is needed."

According to Star India's chief executive Peter Mukerjea, "We presented an industry-wise viewpoint instead of individual assertions and pleas. It was our first meeting with the minister and we are hopeful that he would speed up various pending issues related to the industry concerning his ministry."

Hallmark India Pvt. Ltd's general manager Amitabh said, "The minister listened and did offer some advise."

Pointed out Television Eighteen Ltd's chief executive Haresh Chawla, "That a proactive minister is always welcome was conveyed to the minister who said that he would ensure accessibility to everybody from the industry as also helping the industry grow."

It was also pointed out to the minister that the CAS task force should ensure that the paying consumer is not overburdened and that inconvenience should not be caused to him in the name of CAS.

The star-studded IBF XI (that surprisingly did not include a representative from Sahara group), which met up with Prasad at the I&B ministry's headquarters in Shastri Bhawan for about 30 minutes included Star India's Mukerjea, SET India's Dasgupta, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma, Essel Group's Goel, ESPN India's country head Manu Sawhney, Turner International India's head Anshuman Misra, Discovery India's managing director Deepak Shourie, TV Today Network's chief G. Krishnan, TV18's Chawla, MTV India MD Alex Kuruvilla and a senior representative from the Mid-day group, apart from IBF's Bhuvan Lal.

The delegation could have been a photographer's delight even as Mukerjea and Dasgupta shook hands like long lost friends ("we are good friends," asserted Dasgupta) and also when Siti Cable's Goel and Dasgupta hugged each other warmly though Siti Cable and SET India cross words often over various issues.

The bonhomie was such that when Goel overheard in the lift that Mukerjea was pained to see Star India not represented on the task force constituted for pricing and composition of the basic tier of service for CAS regime, Goel offered that Star India representative can replace him on the panel as there is another Siti Cable executive also on the panel. An offer that Mukerjea smilingly declined.

Though the IBF members said that no company-specific matter was discussed, but broad hints were dropped to the minister that the industry is ready to co-operate with the government on all initiatives and in turn the government should also speed up various industry-related pending issues.

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