'A revolutionary year that was also one of the government's total failure to control the broadcasters'


One healthy thing is that the industry is moving… maybe slowly in some areas, but it is definitely moving, which was not there earlier. The manufacturers lobby which had become stagnant are looking forward again. Fibre optical networks are spreading.

New technology is coming, and words we had never used two years ago, like IPTV & Mobile TV, are now common usage. DTH has been launched already and this will give competition to the cable sector and they will be bound to improve their services. HITS is on the way and if it is operated on C band then it will be good for the cable industry, but if it is put on Ku band, that will kill the cable industry. That will be a disaster.

If it is on C band, digitalisation will become faster, but if it is on Ku band, all the DTH players would start giving out their signals, because they are already on Ku band. And the consumer will also suffer because one after another DTH players will come and ask for money for their channel bouquets if the subscribers want them, so this will hurt the latter's interests.

But I must say that Trai has given importance to the last mile operator, and this has been a major positive this year, they have realised the worth of the LMO and understood that it is the last mile people who have created the industry. They know now that the LMO is the one who gives the connection and actually works in the field.

Thus, to get 25 per cent to carry pay channels on the network was worthwhile. That was not there at all and that is a great achievement. You can say this is only in the CAS area, but a beginning has been made, that these people ought to get this much, which is a model now. So now we can take this forward and at least demand what we deserve. When voluntary CAS is extended to the 55 cities, we shall at least get some margin for letting them use our networks, based on this model.

Again, Trai for the first time has worked out the pay channel rates. Rs 5 for CAS areas and even for the non-Cas areas they have set an upper cap and declared the prices. Yes, of course the broadcasters will protest because they do not want to be controlled. The problem for the cable operator is that he never, before this, knew what he was going to charge the customer, who also never knew what he was being charged for and at what rate.

But the best came from the High Court, the order that CAS had to be rolled out. The courts, whether TDSAT or High Court or Supreme Court has been acting only in public interest, and two of the major decisions related to fixing the price of a sports channel, when Neo wanted to charge an astronomical price but was not allowed, and when the court upheld the government Act on sharing sports events of national importance with Doordarshan.

But beyond the rosy developments, the two worst things that happened this year were failure to extend CAS, and the failure to control the broadcasters. And in fact non-extension of CAS is mainly due to resistance from broadcasters lobby. They have earned too much of money in a non-addressable system and wants the market to stay that way.

I feel sad also that the government this year did not heed to our demand, the only demand, that we be given funds for going digital, which would have really helped, but that was turned down. It is small money and the government should have facilitated the LMOs by telling banks to make it easy for them to get small loans to facilitate digitalisation.

For the government this was a year of failures on several fronts, I am a member on three government committees, and all three here failed to deliver because of lack of will of the government and the most dangerous development is vertical integration, creating absolute monopolies, and the governments failure to implement cross-media restrictions.

As far as CAS is concerned, extension, even under voluntary effort will be good for the industry. But even if an LMO, say in a place like Kota in Rajasthan ushers in voluntary CAS, the broadcasters will not give him the decoders under one pretext or the other, saying that his SMS or some other system is not accurate and he is still under-declaring his subscriber base. The government has thus squarely failed to reign in the broadcasters on all fronts.

In passing, I must say one thing: the image of the LMOs so far had been that we are rowdy, uncontrollable. But in a series of meetings the government has seen who is rowdy, the journalist broadcasters or cablewallahs and officials are now saying, at least the LMOs have some dignity! That is why the goodwill for us has increased in the government quarters.

Latest Reads

2017 was a regulatory roller coaster and the ride continues

NEW DELHI: The year 2017 for the media industry certainly couldn’t be called easy from the point of doing business despite efforts and claims by the federal government that significant progress had been made in the regard.

Specials Year Enders
Guest column: Digital outlook for 2018

MUMBAI: The year 2017 is behind us and, as we peek into 2018, there is so much to look forward to. The digital landscape is so dynamic and ever-evolving that an annual trend-spotting article would be unfair. But still there are key areas where digital is heading and I can safely say that 2018 is...

Specials Year Enders
Content segmentation defines English entertainment, movies in 2017

MUMBAI: It was the year of HD for English entertainment in India. Add to it, the bump up in the number of movie premieres and series that you could now see in better quality. Increased adoption of HD set top boxes encouraged broadcasters to go for HD. Content segmentation has emerged as a big...

Specials Year Enders
DTH's year of consolidation

MUMBAI: It would be safe to say that this was the year of the big DTH challenge. India’s cable TV multi system operators (MSOs) could not go into many phase IV areas and DTH stepped in wherever analogue broadcast signals were switched off following the crossing of the digital addressable system (...

Specials Year Enders
2017 a year of rebranding and extending time slots for Hindi GECs

MUMBAI: The year 2017 was a roller-coaster ride for Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) in the truest spirit of the term. The tussle for the top slot in the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) ratings has seen pay TV and free-to-air (FTA) channels hold on tight to the rope.

Specials Year Enders
The year of hiccups for marketers

MUMBAI: The year 2017 was when brands were unwillingly thrown into a roller-coaster ride only to emerge dizzy and faint. The highs weren’t enough to ride out the lows.

Specials Year Enders
2017: The year OTTs went regional in India

MUMBAI: Over-the-top (OTT) services were undoubtedly the centre of attraction in 2017. The boom in India’s internet users, mainly aided by the growth of Reliance Jio, ensured that OTT players got the right reception and target audience. Not just  mainstream TV broadcasters but even smaller players...

Specials Year Enders
Making the news: A look at what news broadcasters did in 2017

MUMBAI: News channels were thrown into a storm of activity in 2017 with each player keeping up its oars to wade out of challenges that hit at them like ten-foot waves. With elections and sensational news driving up viewership at various points throughout the year, English news channels had to...

Specials Year Enders
Guest Column: The comeback of full-service agencies in India

By 2020, we will be close to a billion digitised screens. With the advent of cheaper data and smartphones and by virtue of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon entering the grassroots of India, digitisation has become inevitable. And it’s going to be mobile plus digitised television (...

Specials Year Enders

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories