Regulators

The 'real' manifesto M&E industry wants new I&B minister to implement

Prakash Javadekar was named I&B minister last week

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MUMBAI: Last week, the affable Prakash Javadekar was named as India's new Information and Broadcasting minister. The senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader occupying the hot seat at Shastri Bhawan is perhaps good news for India's media and entertainment industry. Apart from being a seasoned politician, Javadekar is also known as a consensus builder. There are several key decisions the ministry is likely to take going forward, a new national broadcast policy being the most notable among them. The ministry will also look to finalise the DTH policy and amend the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines. It will also find it hard to resist the temptation of venturing into formulating regulations for streaming services. How the dispensation under the new minister treads will greatly shape the future of India's M&E industry, which is at a critical juncture of growth. As Javadekar prepares to implement his vision for this vital ministry, here is what we at Indiantelevision.com feel should be some of his priorities.

Broadcasting

The broadcasting vertical is the backbone of India’s M&E business. Given that the ministry is in the middle of a stakeholder consultation process, it should nudge TRAI to follow a light touch regulatory approach in order to act as an enabler and facilitator to provide certainty for investors to invest in the broadcast distribution sector, which allows 100 per cent FDI. So far, not a single dollar has been invested in the sector due to fears of constant regulatory intervention and micro-management.

The regulator should provide the cable and satellite sector a three-year moratorium from any further regulatory interventions that will negatively impact consumers and cause economic hardship to other stakeholders.

TRAI should be asked to ensure that DPOs implement the new tariff order in letter and spirit. There are issues in implementing the same due to weak enforcement by the sector regulator at the distributor level. As a result, certain MSOs and LCOs continue to be roadblocks for the realisation of one of the new regime's fundamental tenets - consumer choice.

DTH

There is a lack of level playing field at the DPO level, particularly in DTH. As per the guidelines, there is a vertical integration restriction on broadcast and DTH companies in investing not more than 20 per cent in each other's verticals.  However, the sector regulator after examining the market condition and holding consultation process with the stakeholders issued two recommendations, namely, “Issues related to new DTH licenses” dated 23 July 2014 and “Issues Relating to Media Ownership” dated 12 August 2014 recommending removal of such vertical integration restrictions. This will help in increasing investment in the highly capital-intensive sector by introducing new technologies and generate new employment opportunities.

OTT

In view of increased internet penetration, affordable bandwidth charges, demand for differentiated content and disposable income, the streaming services been witnessing phenomenal growth.  

This has helped the Indian content creators to showcase their talent and reach out to the discerning audience both nationally and internationally.  The international studios are investing heavily in our studios to produce original content for international audience.  This has created not only a viable platform to showcase the Indian creative sector but it has created a lot of employment opportunities and other allied industries.

Therefore, OTT platforms could be given the status of “start-ups” and applicable schemes and incentives could be bestowed upon them to encourage innovation and growth as it will help the Indian M&E sector to be part of the global supply chain.  

The government should advise the regulator not to impose legacy regulations on emerging platforms like OTTs to hamper their growth with the misconceived notion of bringing parity. The wise thing to do for the policymaker and regulator is to remove hurdles and create a light touch regulatory regime for linear broadcasting, so both can compete and benefit the Indian television viewing public.

“Self-regulation” of content by the OTT stakeholders should be encouraged rather than imposing “censorship”. The policymakers should see the difference between “pull” technology which is the basis of OTT and “push” technology which is the basis for linear TV channels, as the latter cater to a larger audience at the appointed telecast hour and many of the distributors would not have necessary technologies to provide technological solutions like parental control etc.

Sports

The broadcasting sector is critical to the growth of the sports vertical. The processing fee charged for broadcasting live sporting events by sports channels could be done away with for starters. The MIB had introduced the “processing fee” without consulting both TRAI and the Sports Ministry. In the interest of building a viable sports ecosystem, the ministry should rethink on its order dated 13 December 2017.

The ministry tried to amend the Sports Act 2007 but the majority of sports federations and professional sportsmen and women expressed their opposition to the same.  As we all know, sports broadcasting rights act as a single source of revenue for the sports federations to monetise and plug back the revenue for the promotion of sports.  If the act is amended it will dilute the ability of the sports federations which is not in anyone’s interest.

Rather, the ministry should enact anti-siphoning law based on fair use principle so that sports rights are shared between sports broadcasters and the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, on a fair and equitable basis.

Anti-piracy

The National IPR Policy in 2016 was issued with an objective to promote a holistic and conducive ecosystem to catalyse the full potential of intellectual property for India’s economic growth and socio-cultural development while protecting public interest. However, the enforcement at the ground level needs to be strengthened. Although DAS implementation is complete on paper, many cable operators and MSOs continue to transmit via analogue. The authorised nodal officers believe the onus of fighting piracy is not on them and tend to point the concerned broadcasters in the direction of MIB or TRAI. So, when broadcasters are made to run from pillar to post, the LCOs make merry due to poor implementation by the police and the ministry.

Films

The ministry should consider waiving off GST in case of payments for the shooting of international films in India. 

GST should be the only tax for the M&E Sector and the state governments should be advised by MIB that in the interest of promotion of M&E they should abolish Local Body Entertainment Taxes (LBET), which is a form of double taxation.

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