TRAI gets support from Subhash Chandra on inter-connect guidelines

NEW DELHI: Urging all the stakeholders of the Indian broadcast and cable segments to sink their differences and “come together” for the overall benefit  of the industry, Zee group chairman Subhash Chandra supported regulator TRAI’s draft inter-connect guidelines that, amongst other such broadcast regulations, have been put on hold owing to them legally challenged in courts.  

“I am a strong supporter of (TRAI’s draft) inter-connect regulations,” Chandra, a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Haryana state, said, adding that in order to reduce litigations amongst stakeholders in the industry it was paramount to “support” such regulations.

However, Chandra made it clear that though broadcast and cable industry should back TRAI draft guidelines at present --- “at least temporarily” --- such guidelines should be relaxed over a period of time and jocularly added that rampant litigations financially enriched lawyers only. He was responding to a question from the audience on growing division between broadcasters and distribution platforms, especially the MSOs and LCOs.

Earlier, delivering the keynote address at the SATCAB meet organized by the All-India Dish Antennae Aavishkaar Sangh, the Zee/Essel Group founder said that there was no reason why the estimated 230,000 (his estimates) local cable operators in the country should not shed allegiance to multiple industry bodies and “unite under one umbrella” to become a force to reckon with so that their voice could be heard more forcefully in the corridors of power.

Pointing out that not only the MSOs and LCOs should unite, but “all stakeholders” like broadcasters too, Chandra sounded a word of caution, “As an industry we need to be alert to technological evolution.” He added that unless that happens, others, like telcos, “will take a lead over consumer experience”, which will be “our weakness.”

Chandra said the cable industry had to prepare itself “to catch up with the future” as at present the industry was at “ground level with basic set top boxes”, for example, when technology (like 3D printing) could soon make it possible for viewers to get a different experience in, say, a TV cookery show.

Referring to various concerns of the LCOs, he said he had ensured that the issue of entertainment tax got subsumed in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), but for him to take up issues relating to the sector stakeholders needed to unite.

Going back in time to 1992, he dwelt on how the idea of Zee had been drawn up and how when he had given this information to a senior official in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), he had been strongly criticized for the whole idea and was told it would never succeed. “But in just three months of launch”, he said, “Zee had 300,000 television homes subscribing to it.”  


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