Sunday, 1 February 2009

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.
Not taking it lightly, the much influential gang of News Broadcasters lobbied with the politicians and approached the PM to get the move held in a abeyance till all stake holders were again consulted. God knows how long these consultations with the stake-holders go on because I have been seeing such moves since 1997 when the first draft of Broadcast Bill was presented in the Parliament. Just thirty odd broadcasters amongst 200 news channels who are members of the News Broadcasters Association are taking the whole system for a ride. This can happen only in a democracy like India. Now the elections are coming and we can forget about any further move from the government to rein in the broadcasters. 
Effect of the global recession has been aggravated after the Mumbai attacks. The ‘Raju Scam’ of Satyam has further brought down the sentiments in the industry. Now it has been predicted that this bad phase may continue for at least another year. Fortunately the whole world accepts that India and China will not be much effected by this meltdown. Both the economics are strong internally and do not depend so much on the US. So, we do not expect any let down in foreign investments. 
DTH is one sector which has felt the heat of this financial crises most. DTH operators depend totally on imported set top-boxes and rising prices are making a big dent in their revenues. If CAS was implemented in India in 2003 when the law was enacted, we would have at least had twenty major STB manufactures in the country by now. But our political system is not so strong as to resist the powerful lobbies of the broadcasters. They have even managed to get TRAI's tariff order for Non-CAS areas withdrawn by TDSAT. Anyway, the DTH players have deep pockets and so can continue to provide free or subsidised set-top-boxes. 
There is no stoppage of channel launches, recession or no recession. We saw the launch of Jan Sandesh, Real Television, Sadhana News Bihar and SpaceToon last month. Some more are lined up for this month too. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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