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“Thanks to fruitful elections, balance sheets look better in 2014”: Rajat Sharma

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The news industry has taken a full circle – from providing welfare information to entertainment to astrology to cricket to sensationalism and now almost pure news taking back the centre stage. In a recent phase, news channels were dominated by frivolous content and Hindi news channels stood as the main suspects. The industry has worked really hard get over it to regain its lost respect. I can now safely say that “NEWS IS BACK”.

While the news channels have proved themselves as an effective platform for promoting culture, movies, sports and many other activities, at the same time they have played a pivotal and decisive role in tackling core issues like corruption, rape, terrorism and inflation. Relentless coverage of Delhi rape case, Anna Hazare’s Lokpal agitation, 26/11 etc. to name a few stand a testimony to that fact.

Despite the fact that news channels comprise an enormously important element of the socio-economic and geo-political ecosystem of the country, most such channels are facing monetary issues – characterised by negative pressures on the revenue toplines and ever increasing costs. The current year though may prove to be an exception and the respective balance sheets may look better than explained, because the industry has seen a relatively long and fruitful election season.

The carriage fees regime stemming out of the analogue pipeline (despite a couple of phases of digitisation already complete) still plagues the industry. However, with the recent developments over the last couple of years, we hope that the actual correction (from digitisation) will start happening in the near future.

The increased bandwidth due to transition to the DAS regime, will not only push the carriage fee down, but also bring in the transparency that shall further help proper monetary compensation for the operators so that the pressure can further reduce on broadcasters. This will help boost the profitability and further the cause of more investments in developing quality content that will be dished out with better audio/video quality.

What could have been another blow to the industry, which is already reeling under multiple pressures, a 12 min/hour advertising cap that was introduced by TRAI for all the channels. We are happy that after a series of discussions with TRAI and TDSAT, High Court has finally put a stay on the same.

I think it’s time now that broadcasters should unite and work towards the growth of broadcasting industry that not only provides employment to thousands but is an important pillar of India’s democracy. In an example of this unity, IBF & NBA along with other industry stakeholders, have created BARC as an alternate to TAM which we are sure will be a transparent and incorruptible currency.

(These are purely personal views of India TV chairman and editor in chief Rajat Sharma and indiantelevision.com does not necessarily subscribe to these views.)

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