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'Rolling out of Cas has been the most significant development'

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One of the most significant developments of the year has been the re-emergence of Zee Network and especially Zee TV as a clear market leader in the entertainment segment when it surpassed its closest rival Star. Its ‘reality show’ Sa Re Ga Ma Pa registered an all time high TRP/viewership amongst different age groups.

Zee Network has also launched a new youth centric family entertainment channel ‘Zee Next’ in December 2007. With BAG Films, NDTV, UTV and TV-18 also planning to bring channels of different genres, the viewers can expect a wide variety of content in 2008.

However, the year has not been so good for sports channels having cricket/BCCI rights as after losing legal battle they had to compulsorily share their feed with Doordarshan in respect of One Day and Test matches under the downlinking guidelines.

The attempt on the part of government to create consensus on the Broadcast Bill received a setback when certain entertainment channels and news channels opposed to the introduction of the Bill, forcing the government to defer its introduction. Most of the media houses have expressed the view that rather than the government stipulating content code by way of legislation, they would like to have a self-regulatory content code.

With BAG Films, NDTV, UTV and TV-18 also planning to bring channels of different genres, the viewers can expect a wide variety of content in 2008

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They apprehend that proposed bill and content code is an attempt on the part of the government to curb the freedom of press through the back door. However, at the same time there has been a vociferous demand from various section of society to impose some kind of control on the ‘unregulated content’ being currently beamed.

I am of the view that there is an imperative need to have a regulatory regime in the broadcasting sector and the Broadcast Bill is a step in the right direction. The proposed legislation contains various provisions which are not only in the public interest but also in the interest of the broadcast sector, which would not only bring order in the sector but would also stimulate the much needed investment so as to provide an opportunity to the sector develop and grow in a focused manner.

While there are certain provisions in the bill e.g. provisions pertaining to cross media ownership and restriction in holding shares within electronic media and distribution sector which may act as an impediment to the overall growth of the sector, the media sector has brought to the notice of the government that the present era is that of globalisation and consolidation by way of merger and acquisition, and these kind of restrictions act as barriers for accessing and optimally utilising the resources of capital formation for the growth and development of the sector.

The Indian media industry, especially Indian broadcasters have to compete with global media companies. In order to match the might of those companies, they must have adequate technology, capital and manpower resources. Thus, the process of capital formation is one of the key ingredients to acquire and accumulate competitive strength and these kinds of restrictions are unwarranted. The government has fairly agreed to review these provisions and has also entrusted the task of developing a draft content code to News Broadcasters Association.

In my view the industry should welcome the Broadcast Regulator, as an effective Regulator protects both consumer interest and the industry from arbitrariness

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In my view the industry should welcome the institution of a Broadcast Regulator in as much as an effective Regulator protects the consumer interest and also protects the industry in question from arbitrariness and interference of the government of the day. The media industry has grown too large and too complex and as such it is in the interest of broadcasting sector itself to have a Regulator. However the Regulator must be autonomous, and independent of the Executive.

Towards the fag end of the year certain court orders and judgments have also come, in which there have been observations that Broadcasters/Media need to observe general community standards of decency and civility in news content, taking particular care to protect the interests and sensitivities of children and general family viewing. The Courts have directed the government to expeditiously bring the content code in the Broadcasting sector.

It is high time the industry responds to this and effectively works with the government in finalising an appropriate self-regulatory content code at the earliest.

There have been a lot of regulatory developments during the year. Trai has brought out Quality of Service Regulations for DTH which outline service bench marks to be followed by DTH operators. This particular Regulation mandated the commercial inter-operability for Set Top Boxes (STB) in DTH service.

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