PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US last month gave a fillip to the New Media industry in the country. He made many media and technology giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Qualcom and Cisco promise to invest heavily in projects in the country. It is a good sign for the Nation that has been facing numerous economic and political problem in the past. Let us hope Modi can make his Ministers and bureaucrats follow it up to see results on the ground as early as possible.
As the time to end Phase-III of Digitisation is coming closer the regulator as well as the Ministry appears to be getting jittery over a very slow progress in the whole process. It is known to everyone that even Phase- I and II have not gone beyond seeding of set-top-boxes, that too of low quality. There are 7500 cities to be covered in Phase-III mostly far flung areas where even the network infrastructure does not exist.
The I&B Ministry, has issued permanent registration to 33 MSOs and provisional registration to 53 MSOs in July. This is the highest number of registrations in a month starting from commencement of digitalization in 2012. It appears that this is a last minute effort by the Ministry, just 5 months before the deadline to register as many number of MSOs as possible and speaks of ill planning, lack of coordination and lack of government will to truly bring the digital revolution in the country.
Sun TV Group is in hot water these days as the Ministry of Home Affairs has refused to give it the security clearance mandatory for a digital MSO and TV channels. Although the reason for refusal is not fully known but speculations are that involvement of its directors and owners of the group companies in 2G scam, misuse of BSNL lines for their business and funding of Kalaignar TV by Maxis Aircel deal are the reasons for refusal. I&B Ministry has approached the Ministry of Home Affairs advocating to give security clearances to the Television channels of the group for renewal of their licenses irrespective of the corruption charges against its directors, but the matter is still in a limbo.
Our PM, Mr Modi made a historic visit to China last month where he has successfully negotiated deals worth billions of dollars to increase the trade between the two countries. One of the main purpose of his visit was to give a boost to ‘Make in India’ drive. Let’s hope it gets materialized in a good manufacturing base in the country. However, CEAMA, the manufacturers association has said that unless we change our internal policies, nothing much will happen.
It is shocking to see how biased and insensitive our television media can be. A suicide by a small cable operators has not even received a mention or discussed and debated by our over ambitious broadcasters who go out of the way to hype or downplay an event depending on what benefits they accrue from it. If it increases TRPs or they get good money for it, it is hyped to no extent meaninglessly, even if it is against the ethical norms. On the other hand, if it hurts their own business or harms the interest of the owners, it will just not be taken up.
Jaswinder Singh Jassi’s death by suicide during the TDSAT Seminar on 28th March 2015 has saddened the whole industry, putting a big question mark on the sources of mandatory digitization so much talked about the government. It is shocking that the incident occurred in the presence of many prominent judges, including chairman of TDSAT and other senior delegates from Broadcasters, MSOs, Cable Operators and consumer bodies.
On 28th February Arun Jaitley presented NDA Government’s second budget in the Parliament among many speculations. The Broadcast industry expected him to accept some of its proposals, particularly of rationalising multiple taxation on stakeholders as well as subscribers but unfortunately, none was accepted. Instead the increase in Service Tax from 12.5% to 14% will further increase the subscriptions. This increase will also impact the broadcasters and the ad agencies who have to pay service tax on every ad transaction.
Ring out the old, ring in the new; we present this year’s Annual with this theme. Although, there had been lot of problems faced by stakeholders in migrating to digitalization in the last three years, we still have hope that things will be better in the new year, with the new government at the Centre taking initiatives for the good of the industry. Most of the problems have been created by the government in the past, trying to implement digitization in a hurry, within a very short and unreasonable span of time compared to the other developed countries in the world and enforcing regulations on millions of existing consumers without realizing economic viability.
First month of the year witnessed very heavy activity all throughout. Assembly elections in the capital kept the television media extremely busy as there was a fierce fight between the BJP lead by PM Modi and AAM Admi Party lead by Arvind Kejriwal. With Kiran Bedi joining the BJP and being projected as the CM candidate, news television saw very interesting live episodes of Indian politicking.
It is time to say goodbye to 2014, There is nothing much to remember of the year 2014 as far as digitization is concerned, because most of the regulations and orders have been challenged in the courts and stayed. There are hardly any gains from digitalization except that a few vertical monopolies had their way all throughout. Such a situation will create a skewed growth and delay the whole process because much of the time will be wasted by the stakeholders in fighting against the monopolies. Ministry and the regulator, who are actually responsible for curbing these monopolies are just sitting tight doing nothing. The biggest happening in the field is delay in implementation of Phase- III & IV.
Command of I&B Ministry has changed hands from Javadekar to Arun Jaitley in the reshuffling of portfolios in the central government last month. Mr. Arun Jaitley is also the finance Minister and has some experience as the I&B Minister in 1999-2000. There is nothing to talk about Jaitley’s last stint as the I&B Minister however, since he is also the Finance Minister this time, industry expects much from him. All earlier proposals of I&B Ministry to Finance Ministry for providing financial incentives to the industry were being rejected consistently.
Last month we spoke of RIO agreements between stakeholders becoming the bone of contention, but TDSAT’s judgment on 25th September has given a direction to the industry to follow an organised path, giving an opportunity to the industry to provide consumers their real choice through a-la-carte system. In the judgment in the case of Star TV V/s Hathway Cable, TDSAT asked STAR to give its content to all MSOs without any discrimination which made STAR to assure RIO based offer to all MSOs in their affidavit in the court. However, this has also caused a commotion in the industry.
Phase III and IV of digtisation have been postponed till December 2015 and December 2016, respectively. This is the major step taken by the new government for correcting the wrong of last UPA government, mandating Digitalisation of Cable TV Industry in whole of India, to be completed within 2 years, a task many developed countries have not done even in 10 years.
In a very silent way Modi government has extended the deadlines for mandatory digitization Phase III and Phase IV to end of 2015 and 2016 respectively. I feel this is a very good move keeping in mind that the feedback received by the Ministry for Phase I and II was not very encouraging. Indigenous manufacture of STB is the biggest worry of the Ministry. Consumer end problems like rate increase, lack of choice of content, poor quality STBs, no itemized billing is the second major problem. Cable Operators are a happy lot as this is a big relief for them but Broadcasters are very unhappy.
With the arrival of new government in the country, things are changing in a positive way. The economy is going up and industrial production is increasing. This growth will also be reflected in Broadcast Industry in the coming times. However it needs a lot of policy changes as most of the policies for implementing digitalisation have been challenged in the courts.
With th arrival of new government in the country, things are changing in a positive way. The economy is going up and industrial production is increasing. This growth will also be reflected in Broadcast Industry in the coming times. However it needs a lot of change in the policies as most of the DAS regulations for implementing digitalisation have been challenged in the courts.
On 11 June Cable Operators from all states, gathered in New Delhi, to chalk out a path for themselves fighting against some disturbing regulations that have endangered their livelihood. Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) along with NCTA organized the event that attracted more than 600 cable operators from all over India.
What a coincidence it is that a few days before the new government was to take charge, there was a fire in the I&B Ministry Office and many files got destroyed. What files have been destroyed is not known to the media. We will know only when there is an enquiry.
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