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Copyright owners call for competitive pricing over TRAI regulation

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NEW DELHI: The Film and Television Producers Guild of India has expressed its voice against any mandated tariff as far as television channels are concerned.

In a reaction to the recent Draft Telecommunication (Broadcasting And Cable Services) (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order 2016 drawn up by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Guild President Siddharth Roy Kapoor said: “As India continues to develop its thriving creative industry, a transparent, market-based environment free from mandated tariffs, is essential to build investor confidence and to foster the creation of quality content benefiting India’s consumers and its economy.”

Guild secretary-general Kulmeet Makkar said: “We believe that price controls should only be considered when the market lacks competition which harms consumers or where there is clear systemic market failure. It would be advantageous to abolish any restrictions on price and thereby encourage FDI investments in India-- as is the case in countries such as Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea, where the retail and wholesale rates are not subject to restrictions. A more economically efficient model would be to allow the market to determine prices while encouraging investment in quality content.”

Fox Star Studios CEO Vijay Singh said, “Since the availability of content is not an issue in the context of the Indian market, restricting numbers/genres/mix tantamount to predetermination and therefore, pre-empts creativity. There can never be an exhaustive list of genres for governments to determine any mix and TRAI's intervention will have cataclysmic effect on the creative community as a whole as TRAI effectively has price capped creativity.”

“Under the Copyright Act 1957, a content owner has the freedom to monetize copyright works and enter into contracts to monetize content in a manner he deems fit. However the price restrictions imposed by TRAI interferes with this basic freedom. It risks stifling creativity and may force smaller companies out of the market – resulting in less choice for consumers,” according to Motion Picture Distributors Association (India) Pvt. Ltd MD Uday Singh.

Sectoral regulations have seriously impeded the growth of the film sector. Despite active participation by global studios and broadcasters, investments in the sector have trickled down in the past few years. Indian studios and independent producers are also facing similar challenges. An open market environment can best guarantee that the film sector will not be distorted to the detriment of consumers, creators and providers, the Guild said in its reaction.

The Guild says that the Tariff Order is likely to take effect from 1 April 2017. It says that the current draft order prescribes maximum retail price caps for pay channels, by genre, Rs 10 (USD 0.15) for movie channels (a-la-carte), excluding taxes] and further caps channels into seven genres.

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