Dasgupta dwells on broadcast issues at FICCI seminar

NEW DELHI: Sometimes unusual suspects come up with something that is out of the ordinary while touching upon routine subjects. Take Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India CEO Kunal Dasgupta's speech at a seminar organised by Ficci, an apex chamber of commerce, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) here today on 'Broadcasting: A Look Towards the Future.'

While tracing a history of evolution of broadcasting at the seminar, Dasgupta, also the co-chairman of the Ficci entertainment committee came up with several gems that were not really expected at meeting on intellectual property rights.



Pointing out that over the next several months at least 50 more (TV) channels were expected to go pay, Dasgupta said that this trend was also likely to sound a death knell or troubled times for pay broadcasters. Reason: with limited infrastructure available with cable distributors, demand for

carriage fee would increase.



"The entire broadcasting industry, not only in India, but

internationally, is poised for a metamorphosis. Many channels have already gone pay, but soon technology will make it possible for a subscriber to pay for the number of minutes for which he has watched a channel," Dasgupta said.

According to the SET India chief, the future would be technology driven and, at present, broadcasters have no control over technology and its developments. Dasgupta also felt that in the coming days "viewership would get broken up in bits and pieces and technology would enable subscribers to even zap ads and also clear ads."

"The time is round the corner when people would watch what they want and when they want it," Dasgupta said.

Quickly linking this march of technology with the topic of the seminar, which was incidentally sponsored by Star, amongst others, Dasgupta exclaimed, "It is very difficult for broadcasters to control what is happening and therefore they can not control piracy too. Cable operators have been picking up signals without paying for them, leading to a huge loss for those who (have) invested in the rights."

And it's not just the cable ops who have been flouting the copyright laws, Dasgupta pointed out, citing the instances of various cinema halls in the country holding (illegal) special shows of the last cricket World Cup matches on a commercial basis by showing signals that were technically not theirs.

So, what's the solution? There is no one solution, but one, according to Dasgupta, for broadcasters could be to "own as many rights to content as possible and going forward, channels will have to create a lot of their content" so that the copyright lies with them and with others to be unlawfully exploited.

If Dasgupta's presentation bristled through some important and unusual aspects of broadcast industry's growth in times of piracy and on the eve of a global law being proposed to curb such activities; broadcast and cable sector's chief regulator Pardip Baijal did not waver much from the oft-trodden path.

Sample this. "The recommendations on issues relating to broadcasting and distribution of TV channels made by the Authority will protect the interests of existing players. The idea is not to kill an existing business, but to allow new technologies to help increase business," said Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman Baijal.

The entire business model should not collapse as it has been seen that in the markets where the regulator has not been able to intervene effectively, entire markets have collapsed, he said.

While referring to the possibilities of Unified Licensing becoming a law, Baijal pointed out that the only "salvation for India" would be the "availability" of all services on one platform. This would, for example, see how voice-over-Internet can be allowed "without killing existing players."

According to Baijal, the passage of this law on unified licensing regime is expected to lead to fierce competition at the delivery platform level, leading to very aggressive rates, which would lead to market expansion.

To substantiate this point, Baijal referred to the mobile telephony experience. Last year when Trai reduced the tariffs, all operators were up in arms against the regulator. "However, the reduction lead to a three-fold increase in the market, thus helping the operators to wipe out losses

accumulated over the last six-seven years," he added.

While dwelling on the point of regulating the use of Internet to curb piracy, Baijal said that technology is in many ways counter productive, as it has killed many businesses. For example, he said, telephony over the Internet is possible due to digitisation, but that is exactly what has also allowed piracy, where operators have completely bypassed the licensed ones to make international calls.

Keeping to the usual was also Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma. He referred to the proposed launch of a free KU-band DTH service from Doordarshan, which has been in the making since July, and also used the platform to send out signals to news channels to pay up for using excess footage of the Olympics, for which DD had exclusive rights.

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