James Murdoch slams cable ops over underdeclaration; Swaraj says conditional access coming


The second edition of the annual global convention on the business of entertainment - Ficci Frames (Films Radio Audio-visuals Music Events and Shows) 2002, kicked off today at the Renaissance Convention Centre, Powai, in Mumbai, with two figures crucial to broadcasting in India taking strikingly opposing stances in their presentations.

James Murdoch, chairman & CEO, Star Group, set an extremely combative tone in his keynote address when he went hammer and tongs at the cable industry over the vexing issue of underdeclaration while saying: The problem is not that there is a middleman (the cable op) but that he is making a mess of it. Murdoch stated that the demand by the cable industry to introduce conditional access systems was more an exercise in obfuscation so as to maintain status quo rather than because of any real concern for the consumer. He also made an impassioned plea for easing up by the government on DTH broadcast in the country so a to introduce a more competitive environment in the broadcast sector.

Union information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj in her inaugural address however, gave little on most of the issues that Murdoch raised. Swaraj expressed concern at the kind of rates that consumers were being asked to pay. To quote Swaraj: area of concern relates to the rates which the consumer has been asked to pay for viewing cable television. I need not go into the issue of who is right and who is wrong. Surely all stake holders have a point of view which is justified. However, as policy makers we have to ultimately be answerable to the multitude of consumers. The rates at which prices of cable viewing has galloped is certainly a cause for worry. We have been toying with the idea of introducing a conditional access system which is mandatory for pay TV viewing. The committee which was constituted for this addressability issue has to give final touches to its recommendations. The objective should be that all stake holders get their legitimate due and the consumer also does not suffer.

In this conference, I hope some time can be devoted to the addressability aspects, especially the pricing, technology and availability of set top boxes.

 Swaraj made no reference to DTH in her speech at all.

Earlier in his presentation, Murdoch, while reiterating the Star Groups long term commitment to India, pointed out the root of growth in the entertainment business is the vibrancy of Indias creative community. Murdoch said that this creativity was being impeded due to the massive underdeclaration by cable operators which made it difficult to pump back monies into programming. Citing examples outside India, Murdoch said broadcasters get 35 to 40 per cent of total subscription revenues and in turn 30 per cent of this was pumped back into programming.

In India, the broadcaster earned only 5 per cent of subscription revenues due to underdeclaration by cable ops to the tune of 85 per cent on an average.

Murdoch said underdeclaration was locking up a good Rs 20,000 million at the operator level and termed this as outright theft of copyright that needed to be stamped out.

Referring to the stand by the cable industry that a conditional access system regime would take care of this problem, and till such time as it was introduced rates should be held at present levels, Murdoch said this was a delaying tactic which was working on the hope that the issue would get entangled in bureaucratic red tape. Furthering the argument, Murdoch said it was still to be fixed who would pay for the set tops that would have to be distributed to consumers.

The only way forward, Murdoch said, was for 100 per cent declaration to become the norm in the industry. In return, broadcasters should be willing to sit down and thrash out related issues and an arrangement that was fair to all could be introduced.

The government to needs to step in, otherwise there can be no resolution to this problem was Murdochs conclusion. Murdoch also made a plea for a relaxation of the DTH policy, saying a fully digitalized service would be a potent incentive to improve services.

Latest Reads

The company is collaborating with Lakme Fashion Week and designer Anita Dongre

World Environment Day - 2018 is going to be special as India is hosting global celebrations of the event today. To commemorate the occasion, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has launched a special T-shirt, branded ‘The Earth Tee’ and designed by renowned fashion designer Anita Dongre, under its...

Specials Event Coverage Occasions
Promaxbda India 2018 announces Puja Vohra and Glenn Urquhart as their masterclass speakers

PromaxBDA India has announced its first 2 Masterclass speakers for the 15th edition of its annual conference and awards property in India, which will take place on 23rd May 2018. Speaking at the Masterclass are truTV’s Puja Vohra and creative mastermind Glenn Urquhart.

Specials Event Coverage Occasions
ABBY Awards 2018 shortlists announced

The coveted ABBY Awards that recognizes and rewards excellence across Advertising, Marketing and Media has now announced that the shortlists for the 2018 edition have started being posted, by category.

Specials Event Coverage Occasions
Ficci Frames and market concludes on grand note

The FICCI Frames and the newly launched content market as part of FICCI Frames 2018 concluded on a grand note.

Specials Event Coverage Ficci Frames
Screen Density: Lessons from the world & Exploring new business models

n Day 2 of FICCI FRAMES happening in Mumbai, there was a session on Screen Density in India attended by some eminent panelists consisting of Mr. William Feng, VP, Greater China, MPA, Kurt Rieder, Head-Theatrical Asia, 20th Century Fox, Kapil Agarwal, Joint MD, UFO, Kamal Gianchandani, Chief of...

Specials Event Coverage Ficci Frames
Broadcasters see positive future for TV in India

MUMBAI: The threat of OTT and integrated platform ecosystems like Android TV is at the peak. Its increasing penetration across all age groups may be a threat to the broadcasters in the coming time. But, it isn’t the case yet in India with 64 per cent TV home penetration and much room for growth....

Specials Event Coverage Ficci Frames
M&E stakeholders need to collaborate for growth: Sudhanshu Vats

MUMBAI: If the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector, poised to be Rs 2 trillion industry by 2020, is to be a force multiplier and up the present growth trajectory, then all the stakeholders, including the government, need to collaborate sinking differences, according to Viacom18 Group...

Specials Event Coverage Ficci Frames
M&E to cross Rs 2 trillion by 2020: FICCI-EY report

FICCI Frames 2018 saw the launch of its annual media and entertainment (M&E) report, this year by Ernst & Young (E&Y) titled ‘Re-imagining India's M&E sector’ which captures key insights from the exciting and fast growing Indian M&E sector.

Specials Event Coverage Ficci Frames
Ficci Frames 2018: Smriti Irani for highlighting M&E's economic importance

MUMBAI: Even as the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector is projected to cross $31 billion by 2020, Minister for Information and Broadcasting (MIB) Smriti Irani said yesterday it is imperative that the country as a whole projected the economic value that the industry lends to the country...

Specials Event Coverage Ficci Frames

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories