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News broadcasters’ expectations from the Union Budget 2016

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MUMBAI: As another budget looms ahead of us, expectations are high riding especially amongst the Indian news broadcasters. The budget will be presented by the Finance Minister on 29 February, 2016 and almost every segment has a set of expectations. To get a better perspective of what news broadcasters’ aspirations are from this year’s allotment, Indiantelevision.com spoke to a few stalwarts from the industry.

Times Network MD and CEO MK Anand says, “Digitisation in general and the rollout of Digital Addressable System (DAS) in the Phase III and IV markets will be perhaps the biggest game changer for Media & Entertainment. We’re looking at addressability and millions of undeclared TV households coming into the radar and huge corrections in the subscription ad revenues anomalies in India. Between Phases III and IV, we are talking around 110 million TV homes. So my biggest budget wish for the industry is that the operators in the distribution chain be empowered, financially, to be able to afford or access, and offer the mandated technically superior digital setups to take their analog TV homes digital. This will become easier if the government accords infrastructure status to the broadcast industry. The cable industry is expected to invest some Rs 40,000 - 45,000 crore on STBs. The government can really help accelerate and optimise the roll-out of DAS to a great extent with this one step.”

As the press is often considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy in India, it is constantly observed that the fraternity has not been benefited much by the budget.

Shedding some light on it, News Broadcasters Association honorary treasurer and News24 chairperson cum managing director Anurradha Prasad says, “First, according to me the government should include media industry in the infrastructure sector. Second, the fruits of digitisation should now come to media. It should positively come into news broadcasting. Media is the fourth pillar of democracy and it’s high time that it gets treated differently.”

However Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar is of the opinion that their requirements are being met by the Ministry’s budget. “We don’t seek much from the national budget,” he adds.

CNN-IBN managing editor Radhakrishnan Nair says, “There is an opportunity available as the global oil prices have come down majorly, so we are sitting on a lot of money. We have not reduced excise on the fuel prices for consumers. There is a lot of tax money that the government has got in. One major thing is that GST, which has not yet been implemented. The budget should look towards the tax structure in which we will make ourselves ready for GST whenever it comes. There could be a possible increase in the taxes or some excise adjustments for different commodities but this year's budget will not be a great people’s budget or a populist budget. It will be a budget that will try to reserve money for the economy and the government. I do not expect too many freebies rather I am expecting many improvements in the agriculture sector as the sector is facing a lot of stress due to various reasons. I would also like a lot of things for the benefit of the start-ups as they are young and willing to start their own businesses. So I expect a lot of tax allowances or policy allowances in this year's budget.”

With the budget round the corner, we journalists are often worried about different ways to cover it with a unique peg to the story. Speaking as a true journalist, NDTV Group CEO Vikram Chandra scorns, “I am not expecting anything from the budget. I am more worried about how I will cover it.”

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