Sarma calls for a 'level-playing field' in broadcasting sector

NEW DELHI: Terming the broadcasting scenario in India as "hazy", Prasar Bharati Corp chief executive officer K S Sarma has called for a 'level-playing field' through a fair regulatory framework in the country.

The chairperson and keynote speaker in the "Broadcasting Technologies" session at the 12th Convergence India conference and exhibition, held here on Friday, Sarma said, "At the moment its free-for-all. We as public broadcaster find ourselves at wits end. Currently, broadcasting in India is mere profit-driven or commercial consideration. I am not passing any value judgment but this market seems to be the case of being of a democratic nation with no regulation."

He further said, "The need of the hour is law. Yes, recently regulator has been appointed but it seems to be groping a lot even though telecom is a closely connected sector to broadcasting. There is a need for a very strong political will, manifested to support a public broadcaster."

Sarma said there is a comparison with private broadcasters, which are "seemingly flourishing on paper", but there seems to be ignorance about the fact programming and advertising codes in public broadcaster are completely different.

"The cable operators, which is again a professional for profit considerations, need improvement in skills. The main challenge is to make the cable operators more professional. I would say the cable operator is the king, rather than consumer. It should be the other way round, unfortunately that is not the case," said Sarma.

While Sarma reiterated the limitation of public broadcaster on technological/market levels and left soon after his presentation, the other speakers spoke about technologies and trends.

Harmonic Inc's president - Convergent Systems division, Yaron Simler shared his views on key enablers and drivers of change in the broadcasting cable fraternity.

"The key enablers are conversion from analog to digital video, ubiquitous content, head-end consolidation, IP transport and distribution, intelligent end device and bigger TV screens, where quality becomes more important and drives consumer demand. The drivers of change are sociological (Internet and cell phones), consumer experience such as video-on-demand, technology - satellite vs cable vs telcom companies, competition and global economy," said Simler.

Simler said that the video technology blocks are digital video, conditional access and set-top box. "In case of digital video, it is MPEG-2 today, but it can be MPEG4 or VC-9 tomorrow," he added.

Viaccess S. A. India sales manager M Stephane Pradinaud spoke about new video services such as VOD and digital/personal video recorders.

"The benefits of VOD to operators include churn reduction and average revenue per user rises, depending upon pricing strategy," said Pradinaud.

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