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Editorials (153)

Sunday, 01 February 2009 10:43

Financial Hardship is Finally Here

Hardly had the shocks of Mumbai terror attacks subsided that all news broadcasters came under severe criticism from the government and the intelligentsia for their irresponsible and dramatized broadcast of the war-like incident. As a result the government decided to amend The Cable Television Act introducing changes in the Content Code as well as issuing new guidelines for media coverage of such emergencies and wars.

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Thursday, 01 January 2009 10:44

Adios 2008

Another year passes by! The financial crisis at the fag end of the year brought the cheers down for the industry which for the whole year demonstrated a very upbeat and vibrant mood. Financial crisis have affected the industry causing reduction in advertising revenues and not the subscription revenues which are still going northward. Subscriptions have increased both, in DTH as well as Cable TV. Cable Industry is also feeling the heat due to reduced carriage fee paid by the broadcasters. All imported equipment has become costly. DTH operators are paying more for the STBs and increasing subsidies to the subscribers to meet the competition, piling up more losses. But a silver lining in the dark clouds is that demand is still increasing everyday. Getting one million subscribers a month is not a joke.

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Monday, 01 December 2008 10:45

Keep Up The Morale

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai has left us shattered and angry. Hope we can get over this tragedy soon. This tragedy is very different from many others we had seen in our country because firstly it lasted pretty long and secondly the Television Media gave us a feel of it all 24x7 for the 60 hours and still continue to do so let us pray for all those who gave their life for the country and who lost their life in such a mindless act. When the US financial melt down started two month ago, we were given the impression that India was not much affected. When the sensex crashed for the first time, we were still given the impression that Indian banks were safe and business would go on as usual. However, very soon the malaise spread allover, first the inflow of FDI installments to many companies was stopped . Then we saw companies cutting down on their expenses. Many employees lost their jobs, Even some CEOs were given the pink slips. And now the studio workers are on a strike demanding higher wages. This has halted the production business in the industry resulting in heavy losses. Trai has given their recommendations on the entry of other entities in Broadcasting. If cleared by the government, this would annoy many political parties and state governments who either already had such ventures or are planning to start one because TRAI has not recommended political parties and religious organizations to get in to broadcasting. Even the ARASU cable network started by Tamilnadu government recently will have to be wound up. Content code is once again in the lime light with the Supreme Court directing the government to submit a code on the lines of a draft submitted by the IBF. This subject was also discussed in the FOCUS 2008, a summit on the business of entertainment organized by ASSOCHAM last month. Mrs Sushma Singh, in her inaugural speech in that summit talked about every issue being considered by the government including HITS, IPTV, DTH etc but was quiet on implementation of CAS in cable TV. I think the government does not have the will to do it or they are under immense pressure by some lobby to keep the issue pending under some excuse or the other. TDSAT also held a seminar in Ranchi on the subject of consumer complaint redressal in the broadcast and telecom industry. It has promised to spend its own funds for hepling small and rural area cable operators to fight their cases. Good news in the last month was NDS announcing the investment of 150 million dollars in India to enhance their presence in every field, when all other companies were cutting down on their investments. 

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Saturday, 01 November 2008 10:47

Self-Regulations Not Adequate

News Broadcaster's Association has announced a complaint redressal authority headed by an ex Chief Justice of India. This is their step towards self regulations as they have been suggesting to the government from time to time. On the surface this looks very fine but whether this will succeed or remain on paper is highly doubtful. The very fact that a complainant has to pay Rs.1000/- before he complains will dissuade him to do so. This complaint redressal only appears to be for the rich and they have many better ways to do that. Not only the above, the recent strictures and comments by a Supreme Court Bench questioning the government while admonishing the broadcasters for dishing out unabated obscenity and violence in a PIL filed by an NGO indicates that self regulations are not adequate for the Indian broadcasters. Our industry is not yet matured enough to regulate themselves. Increasing competition in an uncertain market makes them go beyond the ethics in garnering TRPs. Airtel has finally launched their DTH service. Their late entry has invited a lot of competition from the existing operators, particularly from Reliance's Big TV who as per market reports tried to hijack their launch ad campaign. Even the other two operators Tata Sky and Dish TV are commencing their DVR/PVR services to increase their value addition. The competition in the DTH market will more be on technical grounds now. The next technology to be expected is high definition. Inspite of all the free buys and plethora of on demand movies offered by all the DTH players, it is heartening to know that the set-top-box penetration in the CAS notified areas increased by 13%. It is unfortunate that we are intentionally scuttling the growth of Cable TV by not implementing CAS in the whole country while allowing other technologies to grow. TRAI has released a consultation paper on Cross Media Ownership to give their recommendations to the government.This issue is very relevant as every large company is trying to expand vertically as well as horizontally in all segments of media and entertainment creating huge monopolies. If not curbed now, we will land up with one or two company dominating the scene. The global financial crises are affecting the broadcasting industry too. Post Diwali the condition seems to be getting better. Let us hope for the best. 

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Wednesday, 01 October 2008 10:48

Government should wake-up

For the last one year Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) entrusted with the task of regulating the telecom and broadcast industry has been busy doing consultancy with stake holders on various issues like broadband penetration, FDI, restructuring of Cable TV, digitization of Cable networks, IPTV, Mobile TV, DTH Technology, TRPs and now carriage fee and cross media holdings. This has made the industry extremely busy in finding solutions to its own problems where government gets to know how the regulations could make life easier. Unfortunately all this hardwork has remained only on papers as the Cabinet nod has been given only to one issue ie. IPTV operation. This too, I believe is because both MTNL and BSNL the two giants of Telecom industry working under the government protection are unable to get a headway in their IPTV operations for the last two years. So within a few months of initiating the process TRAI has given its recommendations and surprisingly, they were cleared in a jiffy where the bigger issues like implementing digitization and CAS, channel pricing and content regulations are just gathering dust in the ministry cupboards and may die their own death leaving the industry to fend for itself.

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Monday, 01 September 2008 10:50

Beginning of the IP Era

Two great things happened last month. First the approval of IPTV recommendations by the Cabinet and second the recommendations on VOIP by TRAI. Now the telecom companies can start their IPTV operations without any legal hassels. This will bring them in direct competition with the cable operators for providing satellite channels and other video content to the 130 million TV households. They can also now ask the broadcasters to provide them with all their signals.

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Friday, 01 August 2008 10:51

Building New Gen Network

The recently released data by TRAI declared a massive 286.86 million subscribers in the wireless domain. Total number of telephone connections has reached 325.78 million making the overall tele-density to 28.33 percent. In spite of such an encouraging report the downside is that in the wire-line segment, the subscriber base has decreased to 38.92 million in Jan’08 from 39.05 million in May’08.

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Tuesday, 01 July 2008 10:52

Right of Way

The broadcasters may shout on top of their voice that they can self-regulate themselves and do not require any intervention from the government, it has been proved time and again that they are not yet matured enough to do that. The rising competition amongst ever increasing number of TV channels has brought under scanner the objectionable, vulgar and violent content being dished out unabated by these channels to increase their TRP’s and ad revenues. The government is worried about this and issuing warning after warning every month but there is no end to this game and the government has been forced to bring the content as well as the TRP system under a regulatory regime.

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Sunday, 01 June 2008 10:55

Restructuring Of Cable TV

In continuing its effort to regularize the industry, TRAI is now serious in restructuring the cable television industry. Last month it had two open house discussions with the stake holders, one in Bhopal and the other in Pune. The subject effects so many last mile operators and MSOs that even two open house sessions may not be adequate. Unfortunately many cable operators have not yet felt the importance of the subject, due to a long lasting stalemate in the industry. I feel they have resigned to their fate or have shifted their focus on other business, only waiting for some miracle to happen in the industry. 

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Thursday, 01 May 2008 10:56

Going Forward with Regulations

TRAI’s enthusiasm in drafting new regulations for the Industry has not yet died down. Last month we saw TRAI declare DTH bouquet/channel prices. Also open house discussions were held on entry of other entities in broadcasting and distribution and revision of Foreign Investments in the industry, Sad that the attendance of stake holders was very low. Final recommendations of TRAI on FDI have also been sent to the Ministry. They have recommended 74% FDI for Cable networking raising it from 49%, which may prove good to attract foreign equity from people who are interested to consolidate the networks using convergence technologies and still maintain the status of the small cable operators intact. Most of the Indian companies, unfortunately, create an impression of a total take over that scares the LCOs to support them whole heartedly. 

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Tuesday, 01 April 2008 10:58

Industry in an Accelerated Mood

Month of March always keeps us busy. Companies care less on productivity and more on investments. It is a time of stock taking and planning for the future, both financial as well as production. May be, This is the reason that we have the major industry events held in this month. The month started with the CABSAT at Dubai followed by Convergence India in Delhi and CCBN at Beijing. CABSAT focuses on the television studios and production whereas Convergence India focuses on the telecom services and CCBN on Cable and Satellite. All of them have become “Must attend” shows for the serious professionals in the industry because we find the launch of new technologies and methodology to adopt them for our future expansion / upgradation in these shows. 

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Saturday, 01 March 2008 10:59

Digital is the Buzzword

These are interesting times in the industry. In every segment there is hectic activity and an increasing sense of competition giving rise to new strategies, innovations and technology upgrades. Digital is the buzz word everywhere. Existing DTH players are facing the heat of technology changes from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. The new players are adopting MPEG-4 to provide more number of channels and better services including HDTV. Also, there is a race amongst the existing players to grab the viewers before the new ones catch them. Rates have been cut down to half and free subscriptions are being doled out. 

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Friday, 01 February 2008 11:00

Digitalization On The Go

These are interesting times in the industry. In every segment there is hectic activity and an increasing sense of competition giving rise to new strategies, innovations and technology upgrades. Digital is the buzz word everywhere. Existing DTH players are facing the heat of technology changes from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. The new players are adopting MPEG-4 to provide more number of channels and better services including HDTV. Also, there is a race amongst the existing players to grab the viewers before the new ones catch them. Rates have been cut down to half and free subscriptions are being doled out. 

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Tuesday, 01 January 2008 11:01

2008, An Year of Hopes

The year 2008 starts with great hopes. If 2007 was the year of regulations, 2008 will be an year of implementation of new technologies. We saw the launch of Digital Cable with CAS, Mobile TV, IPTV and WiMax trials in the year 2007, the year of Broadband. The start was lackluster but it generated a lot of interest and hopes for the New Year. The real reason behind the hesitant start is the fear of competition in the age of convergence. Both, the broadcasting sector as well as the telecom sector are wary of each other taking the lead in the converged environment. Where as the telecom sector comprising of the giant companies with international reach could dare to venture into new fields without even the regulations in place(like in IPTV, Mobile TV and WiMax), the fragmented broadcasting sector was too much confused by the sudden spurt of regulations to do something out of the way. Sometimes, I feel the regulations have a smothering effect and curb creativity. 

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Saturday, 01 December 2007 11:03

Lagging The Target

Year end has come and the "Year of Broadband" has not proved to be so. The broadband penetration has only reached 2.7million from 2 million last year, an increase of 35 %. But we have a target of 20 million to be accomplished by 2010.1 feel it is our policies that are to be blamed. Unless it is a concerted effort on the part of our government to sincerely follow the recommendations of the regulator and also make such policies that may unleash all our resources, it will not be enough. Our land lines(ADSL) are not adequate for broadband .We are banking too much on wireless which is still far away as the spectrum issue has not been resolved yet. Mobile has not gone beyond 144kbps in providing broadband. This way TRAI's recommendations to the government will not have any meaning.

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Thursday, 01 November 2007 11:05

Regulations in Full Stream

Oflate the Electronic Media, instead of giving news has itself become a news. 

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Monday, 01 October 2007 11:06

Season of Regulations

Regulation of content has been much in the news in the last month. Jovernment's intention of presenting the Broadcasting Services Bill in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament was scuttled down by the Media big-wigs, particularly the news broadcasters in the name of freedom of press. That besides, we cannot under estimate the impact of a bad news or a manipulated news on the gullible masses. They believe what they see.

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Saturday, 01 September 2007 11:08

Technological Innovation the Only Mantra

Dear Readers,

It is disheartening that Broadcast Bill 2007, did not figure in the list of 25 Bills slated for debate in this session of Parliament. Broadcaster have opposed the Bill, which provides for a broadcast regulator and seeks to impose severe cross media restrictions, as an ill thought out legislation that was open to gross abuse by the government. Infact the industry has asked for a 12-month moratorium to discuss it threadbare but I fail to understand if so many years were insufficient for discussion. The readers may not know that the action on a Broadcasting Services Bill started way back in 1995 when the Cable Television Act was enacted. 

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Wednesday, 01 August 2007 11:09

Use Cable Networks for Broadband

Broadband penetration has been a big worry with the government recently. Inspite of trying so hard, we are much short of our projected connectivity of 9 million by the end of 2007. We are only 2.2 million now but still we want to set a target of 20 million by 2011. Not a tall order if we have good intentions and right approach. Both these things become rare when there are vested interests and a corrupt system.

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Sunday, 01 July 2007 11:10

Mobile TV on the Swing

The whole world is talking about the new media these days. India is not very far behind. Both IPTV and Mobile TV have brought us on the world map and India's growth statistics have started appearing in the International surveys. Even at the recently concluded Broadcast Asia and CommunicaAsia 2007at Singapore, most talked about and demonstrated technologies were of IPTV and Mobile TV. Digital markets for digital communications have become passe. It is digital entertainment occupying the front rows now.

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