Last month kept us all busy tracking various scams. No sector is left wanting as far as scams are concerned. It all started with the 2G Scam of the Telecom Ministry. Commonwealth Games scams are also slowly being unearthed. Prasar Bharti's HD Broadcast scam with the alleged involvement of its CEO B S Lalli has put the PMO and the I&B Ministry at loggerheads. Now the telephone tapping of Ms Radia's conversations are making many skeletons tumble out of the closet. Mr Rattan Tata whose conversation was also tapped has gone to the Supreme Court to protect his privacy. Two senior journalists Barkha Dutt and Veer Sanghvi have also been accused of helping the telecom deals who are now on a spate of giving explanations in every which way. Parliament is already on a boil due to these scams. Various land scams like the one involving the Karnataka CM and the other of the Adarsh Society of Mumbai involving the Maharashtra politicians are putting the whole country to shame. And to top it all now we have the accusation that the Telecom Minister gave WiMax license to two companies who never existed. The whole scenario is so polluted that one wonders if any thing is going right these days.
The CW Games are over and everything went off very well. During those twelve days people forgot about corruption, falling bridges and snakes in the village. All they saw was grand opening and closing ceremonies and an excellent performance by our sports persons bringing home a never expected 101 medals tally, not to talk of some world records and many national records being broken. Even the live HD broadcast, done for the first time in India was lauded by the international community. It is another thing that hardly anyone saw the Games in HD in our own country. It would have been a great experience, if government had taken some steps to promote it about six months ago. Now is the time to open the cupboards and reveal the skeletons. Prasar Bharti is already in the news having favoured SIS Live in many ways in their contract for the HD broadcasts. Many heads may roll now although Mr BS Lalli, CEO of Prasar Bharti has refuted all charges and stated that due permission was taken from the Ministry for all contractual terms.
It is sad that Commonwealth Games which could have been the pride of the nation have become a national shame, what with blame of corruption, bad construction, delayed projects, falling bridges and snakes in the rooms. But one important aspect is that we are getting all the news from the news channels and the print media. As usual, is the media creating a negative hype to gain TRPs? The media has no big news these days other than the CW Games. Even some foreign participants have also commented that in every such big event, glitches exist but they are never hyped so much by the media as being done here.
Only one month is left for the Commonwealth Games to start and we are still wondering if we can do it. Rains in August had demoralized everyone including the government, host broadcaster Doordarshan, Delhi Government and the UPA Government at the centre. Many emergency measures have been taken and the PM himself has intervened to ensure all goes well. Venues and their surrounding areas are still not ready and the host broadcaster as well as the international production team from SIS of UK is yet to take possession of their stands and do practice for the live HD broadcasts which is being done for the first time in the country. Also, this will be the first time the CW Games will be live broadcast in HD (High Definition). We give our readers a detailed preview of the Games in this issue.
TRAI has finally come-up with the new tariff both for addressable (DTH, IPTV, CAS-notified areas) and non-addressable TV distribution systems (non-CAS areas). The regulator although seems to have failed in its endeavour as its “appease all” tactic has not pleased any of the stakeholders in the industry. Cable operators allege that the regulator is favouring the broadcasters by allowing them to increase their rates by 9 percent in lieu with the inflation and at the same time, it reduced the maximum tariff limits from Rs 260 to Rs 250 in non-CAS areas, putting extra pressure on already burdened small operators. The operators argue that if they collect a lesser amount from subscribers how they will be able to pay the hiked rates of pay-channels to the broadcasters. The operators are also barred from choosing channels on a-la-carte basis, an option which is provided to DTH consumers in the latest tariff order. With a-la-carte, they would have selected only the desired channels for their areas of operations.
During entire month of June, industry regulator TRAI and other stakeholders were busy deciding on the cable TV tariff in non-CAS areas. After a consumer survey, consultation paper and several intense meetings with all stakeholders, TRAI is expected to come-up with a proposal, capping the monthly cable TV tariff to Rs 250 plus taxes for a complete bouquet of channels. However, operators are allowed to charge lesser. For free-to-air channels, consumers have to pay just Rs 100.
It has emerged out to be a much more intricate as well as prolonged process than expected yet at the same time raked-in more moolah than anyone had ever thought of. Yes… I am talking about much hyped 3G auctions which completed in 34 days and has garnered over Rs 67,700 crore for the exchequer. The Government had initially thought of earning Rs 36,000 crore from the auctions. Auctions have not only gone way past the Finance Ministry’s projections but have provided a much needed elbow room to the Ministry to bring down the fiscal deficit below the level of 5% in the current fiscal.
Month of April kept everyone busy studying the three important consultation papers put up on their website by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. I feel it is too harsh on the stake holders to make them answer such lengthy papers comprising of more than 100 pages of text in a matter of 20 days to a month. No one will be able to comment with a cool mind giving due thought to all the aspects. People are sending their comments only because similar papers on Non CAS area tariff, issues concerning HITS and CAS area issues have already been discussed on earlier occasions since 2004 and nothing has come out of all these elaborate exercises. No one appears to obey the sector regulator and Ministry is sleeping with TRAI’s numerous recommendations. Replies coming forth from the stake holders indicate their frustrated minds.
When the Government approved HITS (Head-End In The Sky) policy on November 12, last year, WWIL shares gained by 20% a day after, since it was the only license-holder to carry-out HITS operations in the country. But the cheers could not stay for long. Four months on, and WWIL decides to with-hold its HITS operations disappointing many cable operators who had started using their services making huge investments. Government must take the blame once again for making hurried decision in allowing HITS without putting distribution and interconnection policy in place. There were no guidelines for the broadcasters for giving content to the HITS operators.
Industry has been waiting desperately for the Budget 2010 that was announced on February 26. India is out of the grip of the global recession and many priority activities must start this year like digitization of cable networks, adopting newer technologies of broadcasting before the Commonwealth Games kick-off, spreading broadband in the rural areas etc. The budget rode on the economy which has done well in 2009-10 with an increased industrial output and the confidence coming back into the consumer market. Expectations of achieving 9% growth in GDP and fiscal deficit down to 5.5% in the next year has brought cheers to the industry. However, common man is still facing the brunt of rising prices. Consumption levels going down will affect the industry adversely.
BEGINNING OF 2010 ALSO MARKS THE END OF RECESSION AND START OF HEY-DAYS OF INDIAN ECONOMY. THE NEW YEAR BRINGS A LOT OF HOPES FOR THE INDUSTRY. Commonwealth Games will act as a catalyst to speed up the developments. Technologies to watch in the new year are High Definition TV, HITS, WiMax and 3G .This will usher in a new era of competition between the telecom operators and the cable operators. We may even see some acquisitions and mergers to facilitate convergence. There are signs of digital cable spreading all over, at least in big cities to meet the competition in providing HDTV, Video on Demand , High Speed Internet and Content Storage applications like the PVR/DVR.
This Diwali has been nice for the markets as economic progress continues. Industrial production has gone up by 10.4% giving hopes of better GDP (above 6%) by the year end. Stock markets have performed very well, beyond expectations, jumping from 7,000 mark to 17,000 in one year... all speaks well of the coming times.
India had a fairly unplanned monsoon, with roads clogged and traffic jams, all reached their workplaces cribbing and complaining. But, work is to be done and on time. So as promised, we are back with another edition of Cable Quest carrying new information of who's who of the industry, product launch and interesting write ups.
Recession is fading and a lot needs to be done. The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh's speech on the Independence Day brings hope. Despite droughts in many parts of the country he assured the country men that the government was taking adequate measures to make the economy better. Lets see...
Our government is a paradox. On one hand it plans to spend crores of Rupees on WiMax technology to enable the rural areas to use broadband and on the other hand it propagates BSNL, the failing public sector giant. Also encouraging alternate technologies like DTH and HITS in the name of digitization of the broadcast and cable industry to achieve faster results.
Last month the I&B Minister cleared the registration of 22 Channels, mostly regional which was quite contrary to my earlier feeling that since the Minister as well as the secretary are new, they will take three to four months to become effective. This is a good sign that Ms. Ambika Soni is all geared up to act fast and efficient. She has already held meetings with broadcasters, NBA, MSOs and Cable Operators and understood their problems and expectations. She has also shown her inclination to form, content regulations for the TV Channels as were suggested after the 26/11 terrorist attack. The Ministry has also issued advisories to some channels including TV-5 of France for violating the programme code. Also, this is the first time the I&B Minister has seriously dealt with the taxation issue and other budget sops to the industry and discussed the matter with the Finance Minister before the budget session this month. Hope there is a positive result of this exercise. Industry’s demands from Cable Operators, MSOs, DTH operators and Broadcasters are listed in this issue.
The dance of democracy that began a few months ago ended with a good note. The UPA government is again given the mandate to form the next government. With Manmohan Singh been sworn as the Prime Minister, we have the hope of continuing with the progressive policies of the UPA government pursued for the next five years too. We also expect that the decisions taken so far in many fields will not be reversed like it happens at such times when a different political party comes to power. General atmosphere in the country is that of a stable government with progressive policies creating a better economic environment much needed for the growth of any business. A sudden spurt in the Stock Market indices is a clear signal of this.
Television was never so busy as in these days when the two most eyeball grabbing events are going on; IPL the Cricket’s favorite event in South Africa and the drama of General Elections. All other TRP grabbing entertainment programmes have been pushed to the backyard. Every news channel has come out with a different kind of election entertainment. Frankly Speaking, it is no news, it is a grand big 'Mela' on television and we find everyone including the anchors, political leaders the crowds and the viewers are enjoying it to the hilt.
No right click