The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has a new Minister, Ms Smriti Irani, a veteran from the television industry who understands the sector well. Let’s hope she initiates some innovative steps to make the environment in the Industry better. At present, in spite of our country doing well on the economic front, our industry is mired with court battles between the stakeholders and the regulator TRAI holding up the regulatory process for which efforts were on since 2003.
When the clock struck 12 on 30th June 2017 midnight, India entered an era of financial revolution introducing a single tax regime called the ‘Goods and Services Tax’. The event was celebrated in the Parliament with all the fanfare with the President, Sh Pranab Mukherjee ringing the bell to usher in the historic economic reform in the country.
As a regular exercise, TDSAT, the telecom sector tribunal, held a Seminar on ‘Digitisation: Achievements Issues and the Way Forward’ on 20th May in Chandigarh. It was well attended by the Judges of different courts, lawyers, MSOs, broadcasters and LCOs. For TDSAT’s new Chairman, Hon’ble Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, it was the first-of-its kind seminar where members of TDSAT interacted with consumers and industry stakeholders in an open environment.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), on 21 April, issued an Advisory to all authorized officers to initiate action against any defaulting MSO/Cable Operator who transmits analogue signals on Cable TV network anywhere in the country as the deadline of 31 March 2017 for the last phase of mandatory Digitisation has gone past. The main question is - what will happen to millions of people who have not been given access to digital signals or they are unable to afford it? According to Ministry’s own statement, only 70% seeding has been achieved in Phase III & IV leaving millions of households with analogue cable. Also, 20 % India is poor; can a government force them to go without television because they cannot afford a technology which the Government wishes to enforce for its own gains?
The Madras High Court declined Star and Vijay TV’s request for stay on TRAI’s Tariff Order and other regulations. The broadcasters had amended their petitions soon after TRAI notified the Tariff Order in March this year. The plea taken by them is that exploitation of content comes under the Copyright Act and TRAI has no jurisdiction over it to decide the tariff for TV channels.
Finally on 31st March, Digitisation has been declared completed in the country on 31st March 2017. MIB has already issued a notice for all stakeholders to switch off analogue signals and has warned strict action against any violation. It is a different issue that as per the minutes of the latest Task Force Meeting held on 14th March, only 64% of STB seeding has been achieved in Phase-III and IV. This is only the official report based on MIS data received from a few MSOs out of a total of 1150. Also, all these statistics are based on 2011 census.
The Supreme Court has finally allowed the TRAI to notify its Tariff Order and other regulations which were held up as the broadcasters Star India and Vijay TV have challenged the jurisdiction of the Regulator to regulate the television content and its pricing in the Madras High Court with the plea that they are governed by The Copyright Act. The TRAI had gone to the Apex Court against the status quo order of the Madras High Court on notifying any content pricing. Consequently, TRAI Tariff Order, Interconnection Regulations and Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection Regulations for Addressable Systems have been notified on 03rd March, as we go to print. We shall be giving you a detailed commentry on the Regulations in our subsequent issues.
The year 2016 will be remembered as a bad year for the industry. Major upheavals were related to forcing a new technology on the masses, particularly the low income rural people who are mostly illiterate and cannot afford to spend on high technology.
Although Mr Modi as well his Ministers have been assuring the people that problems in implementing demonetization due to withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes from circulation, are only shortlived, yet the impact of the serious cash crunch in the country may lead to adverse impact on the economy. I don’t think even the people who planned the biggest demonetization exercise in the world would ever had thought of the chaos it would create by declaring 86% of the currency value as zero overnight.
The Delhi High Court has started hearing the cases for DAS extension, transferred from other High Courts of other states on the orders of the Supreme Court of India. The result so far is not encouraging as in all the cases taken up last month, eight cases related to extension of DAS Phase-III have been dismissed.
The Delhi High Court has started hearing the cases for DAS extension, transferred from other High Courts of other states on the orders of the Supreme Court of India and on 8th September gave a notice to the MIB. The result so far is not encouraging as in all the cases taken up this month so far, they have been adjourned for the next dates.
Court cases filed by small MSOs in various high courts for extension of DAS deadline are coming up in the Delhi High Court after they were transferred there on the orders of the Supreme Court. It is the Ministry who is trying to get them quashed at the earliest so as to finish its task of implementing mandatory digitization of Cable TV by the deadline of 31st December 2016, set by the TRAI and the Ministry itself.
Olympics are on and we should be proud that this time our sports contingent is the largest ever with 119 sportsperson participating in different games, our good old Doordarshan will be broadcasting the games live, particularly the events where Indians will be participating. We are giving complete schedule in this issue, so keep your remotes ready to cheer up the Indian team.
Month of June has been a very important landmark in the industry as certain events impacted our economy, indirectly impacting the industry in a big way.
Result of the recently held Assembly Elections in four states namely Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and in Union Territory Puducherry has made the ruling BJP jubilant as it has won a majority in Assam and made some in roads in the unchartered territories. Rumour is that it has made BJP confident of finding a solution to pass the GST Bill in the Parliament as well as bring other changes in the business environment of the country.
TRAI, the sector regulator, is in the process of viewing all the tariff and interconnection regulations in the broadcasting regulations in the broadcasting industry. After due consultation the regulator, had held an open house discussion in New Delhi on the Tariff issues, for TV services. All broadcasters are demanding forbearance of Tariff whereas distribution operators like MSOs and DTH operators, are demanding a regulated tariff, where it is RIO based or cost base. Now the industry awaits the regulators final recommendation on the subject as growth of the industry depends on this. Basically it is not a question of ARPUs, it is more the need for transparency, accountability and non-discrimination.
Phase IV implementation is fast approaching its deadline of December 2016 but after the last MSO list issued on 26th February, only 39 more MSOs have been registered by the MIB. All these MSOs are provisional. The whole process does not seem to be transparent as the MIB does not upload the details of all the applicants on its website, with the status of the application and security clearance. Many MSOs are waiting to even get a proper status report about their application for more than a year when according to the citizen charter of MIB, complete registration process should finish in four months after receipt of the security clearance.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has finally decided to approach the apex court to club all the High Court cases, where stay orders have been given on switching off the analog cable and get all these stays vacated. IBF had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court for the same purpose but it was dismissed. In the mean while Allahabad High Court has also given a stay for next three months and the Hyderabad HC has extended the stay for another four weeks. It appears that the Ministry is more worried about the broadcasters rather than the consumers whose TV sets are being blanked out.
The month of January started with a commotion in the Industry as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting declared switching off the analog signals in Phase-III areas, putting hundreds of Cable Operators in a quandary, wondering how to survive their business. Industry did not anticipate this kind of harsh move by the Ministry as the set-top-box shortage is very serious in the Country and also many regions did not have a Digital MSO feed for cable operators who have been earning their livelihood through business for decades.
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