Television

MPA, USIBC oppose 'must carry' Trai provision

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MUMBAI: While lauding its efforts to migrate to a digital era, affluent industry bodies like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPA) and US-India Business Council (USIBC) have come down heavily against Trai's proposed move to mandate must-provide of TV content.

 

MPA is strongly opposed to any `must carry provisions and believes that they will only act to hamper the necessary investment required to digitalize networks,the powerful bodies of Hollywood studios and media coMPAnies has said in a submission.

The two organizations, while making submissions to a consultation paper on `Digitisation of Cable TV Networks, have also made a strong pitch for raising foreign investment caps in cable networks to 74 per cent and easier licensing regime for a digital era.

Concurring with MPA, the Delhi-based USIBC, through its media cell, has exhorted Trai not to push ahead with the must-provide clause, which has been repeatedly referred to as must-carry in the submissions.

Do not implement a must-carry provision for digital cable networks. We strongly disagree with the concept of requiring broadcasters to offer their content to every cable network operator, whether digital or not. This distorts the operation of the market, putting the negotiating strength in the hands of the network operator,USIBC has said.

The must-provide clause or making available all content on a

non-discriminatory basis to all types of platforms has kicked up dust in India with most foreign pay broadcasters opposing the regulators move, which still needs to be notified in the Official Gazette to come into effect.

As of now, broadcasters such as Star and Sony do not offer their content to the DTH platform of Dish TV, 20 per cent owned by Zee Telefilms.

The lobbying importance of MPA and USIBC could be gauged from the members of the two organizations. MPA member companies include Buena Vista International Inc, Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International Inc, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc, (both these two part of Sony group, which has a large presence in India), Warner Bros. International Theatrical Distribution Inc and 20th Century Fox that is part of Stars parent company News Corporation. USIBC members include the likes of Discovery, News Corp/Star, DowJones and Sony.

While discussing a possibility of offering incentives to promote

digitalisation, including pricing and fiscal incentives in the form of import duty and service tax sops, both the organizations have also strongly rooted for raising of foreign investment cap from 49 per cent to facilitate easy inflow of investment for digitalisation.

Pointing out that it recognizes that the current limit on direct foreign investment of 49 per cent for cable networks was set without any awareness of digitalizatios, MPA has submitted, This limit should be reviewed to take account of the huge investment needed to make the transition.

USIBS is more direct when it exhorts the Indian government, through Trai, to introduce 74 per cent foreign equity in digital cable networks.

As the Internet,telecommunications and broadcast media converge, equity caps for each service should be equal.A jump to 100 per cent may not be feasible in the near term, but a goal of 74 per cent to bring digital cable service in line with telecom is quite appropriate. High foreign equity caps allow smaller Indian cable service providers to access capital necessary to offer new services and expand market share, as we have seen in the telecom sector,it has said in its submissions.

Interestingly, both the organizations have supported implementation of conditional access system as a technological measure that, if properly used, can enable a healthy digital transition. MPA feels it is necessary for all cable operators to be capable of delivering encrypted signals, that is CAS-capable.

Other issues like a licensing framework for digital cable TV networks, a flexible time-frame for transition from analog to digital transmission and a uniform pricing regime for digital networks have been highlighted too by MPA and the USIBC, both which have heaped praises on Trai for considering these difficult issues related to digitalisation.

However, the tone is firm.MPA firmly believes that a light regulatory environment, coupled with a deep respect for copyright is the key to nurturing a successful television sector,the studio organization has submitted.

Globally, while some developed markets like the US and the UK are still grappling with migration to a digital era, amongst the developing nations, only India is attempting to chart a path towards digitalization of TV and cable services.

 

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