All markets need regulation: Abernathy

MUMBAI: The government and the regulator might be having to take a fair degree of flak over the direction it is providing the industry but take the opinion of the US regulator and one gets an interesting point of view.

Which is that by and large India is on the right track in this area.


Federal Communications Commission (the United States regulator) commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, speaking on the sidelines of the first ever India Television Summit, organised by and Media Partners Asia, covered a wide range of issues. But one overarching point that came through was that if “you look at where India is compared to other countries, it is one of the shining stars. When it comes to broadband and telecom and competition and choice, I’ve been very impressed,” Abernathy said.

This might well provide a sense of perspective to an increasingly agitated broadcast sector straining at the leash over its inability to leverage the opportunities a rapidly exploding economy provides.

Commenting on the issue of content control Abernathy said, “Every country has to decide this content issue on their own, based on their culture and their values. I think it is up to the government to decide at what point is it harming their culture and at what point is it free speech so you don’t want to curtail it. This idea of having to protect children and cultures is a very valid line of argument for all governments.

“And most successful companies will learn to accommodate the needs of other countries otherwise they will not be welcome in those countries.”


Speaking on the role of the regulator, Abernathy said, “Ensuring that you have a regulatory environment that allows more investment and innovation and the introduction of new services. That is essentially what all regulators want. We sometimes come with different answers because of different economics and cultures.

“All regulators fundamentally understand the importance of new technologies in bettering the situation of their respective populations.

The regulators’ role is to ensure that the environment is more friendly for investments to flow into different technologies and platforms.

“What we in the US are doing is also to encourage the use of technologies that bring more control in the hands of the parents over what their children can and should watch. For instance, there is a new remote out in the market that not only allows for the restriction of what programmes can be watched but also for how many hours and what time.”

On the question of whether India is far from regulated compared to the developed countries, she pointed out, “I am very impressed with how India has dealt with these issues. When I look at all the steps that have been taken to encourage investment and innovation, if you look at where India is compared to other countries it is one of the shining stars. When it comes to broadband and telecom and competition and choice, I’ve been very impressed. “

“From what I know, by and large the government and the regulator both have been on the right track as far as regulation is concerned.

Abernathy had some words of appreciation for the direction being provided by the Indian regulator Trai and its chairman Pradip Baijal. “I know in my country and in this country the debate over content can get very emotional as it should because it goes to your culture. But if you look at the long term effect on the country to be provide jobs, education and new technology, well it is definitely heading in the right direction. And a lot of that is owed to the head of the regulator (Trai chairman Pradip Baijal). I think he’s taken a little bit of stick in India but that’s normal because most of the time when you’re a regulator you’re thinking about where you want your country to be in five or ten years while everyone else is thinking about today.”

“As a regulator all that I really care about is that you have enough competitive forces so that you have to deliver quality and value to consumers.”

To the query whether having no cross media restrictions help at all, she put it succinctly. “Well certainly, we are not ready to do that in the US.”

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