Thursday, 1 December 2011

Imature Media can not self regulate

Chairperson of Press Council of India, Markandey Katju set off a nationwide debate on the regulation of electronic media, in particular the television media stating that it should be under jurisdiction of the Press Council. The debate has kept all news channels busy protesting against his views through various talk shows. While all the media persons were against Katju, public views published in the news papers were completely in sync with him. However, Ministry is seriously considering his views to bring the television channels under the jurisdiction of the Press Council. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

November 2011

1/11/11 -- Airtel Digital TV, the DTH service from Bharti Airtel, has added 15 more channels to its offering taking the total channel count to 262. The DTH platform has added four high definition (HD) channels taking its true HD channel count to 11.

A new era begins

There is a sudden change in the mood of the Industry. Signing of the Ordinance on Digitalization of Cable TV by the President on 25th October has put the industry on a fast track. This time the government wishes to introduce total digitalization which will include all FTA channels too. First phase of the process for all Metro cities is expected to be completed within six months of publication of Notification and rest of India will be digitized by December 2014. This is definitely a very ambitious target but if we think in an optimistic way, a good beginning has been made. Most of the advanced countries and even many developing countries have already finished their digitalization. The biggest advantage of the move is that it will help to boost up the convergence of telecom and broadcasting, increasing the broadband penetration, so much needed for a faster economic growth. 
Success of the Ordinance largely depends on how it will be implemented on ground as many issues have to be sorted out by the regulator TRAI and the Ministry. Basic Tier pricing for consumers, pay channel tariff, a-la-carte distribution of channels, revenue share between stakeholders etc. need to be tackled as early as possible. Also, the government needs to educate the masses on digitalization and how will it affect their viewing as well as their purse. 
My biggest fear is forcing an STB on the 40% subscribers of cable TV who come under the poor category, economically. Remember, the first experiment of CAS was made in the richest areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and there too, the FTA channels did not need an STB to be viewed. 
Hope the government plans to do something about this by giving subsidy to these people like the USA government, which doled out 40 USD for each poor household to buy an STB. In India, even the import has not been subsidized and there is almost nil indigenous manufacturing. If there is no help given, cable TV industry should be prepared to lose their connections en-mass, and broadcasters, their viewer ship. 
Network up-gradation by the franchises will be another problem as heavy investment for the purpose may be beyond their financial limitation. They may be forced to sell off their networks to the MSOs and leave the industry forever. 
Broadcasters and their distribution companies will be the biggest beneficiaries of this ordinance. It appears, the whole exercise has been done to help them make money even from the most unpopular channels and to cut down their expenses drastically on carriage fee. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



Saturday, 1 October 2011

October 2011

01/10/11 --  TDSAT organized a seminar on Complaint redressal mechanism in broadcasting sector at Chandigarh.

Ordinance to speed-up digitalization

Finally, we may see the D-Day of digitalization soon, may be within a month. This fact emerged from the news that trickled down from Shastri Bhavan after two meetings of the Task Force on implementing Digitalisation with Addressability in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, saying that the government will bring an ordinance on the subject to let the ball rolling. The news itself has lifted up the stocks of some large MSO companies. 
As the news reports go, first phase of total digitalization in the four metros will have to be completed by March 2012, as suggested by TRAI in their recommendations. Well, a great opportunity is coming up in the industry to catch up with rest of the world in technology as well as content. We have already seen this change take place in the DTH and the mobile sector. 
IBC this time was brimming with hopes for the broadcast industry. Technologies which were on trial last year were being deployed commercially in the developed world. HD is now passé and 3D and Super HiVision have moved in. As demonstrated by NHK in their booth, SuperHiVision will make HD obsolete soon, commencing from its first live broadcast during the 2012 London Olympics. 3D is going to be the next big thing as 3D viewing without the glasses has also been implemented. Moreover, all new technologies support multiplatform distribution on conventional as well as new media, ushering in real convergence. 
Although Indian economy has slowed down a bit following the trends in the developed world, particularly USA and Europe, Television Sector has shown positive results and grown at 12% in the last year. It is expected to grow at the same rate in future too, as projected by the Deloitte research presented by ASSOCHAM in Focus 2011, last month. 
Animation and gaming industry in India too is progressing well, showing a growth of 23% last year. According to Monica Tata of Turner who looks after the two top children channels, Pogo and Cartoon Network, 20% of their content is Indian. We find more information about the sector from her in an interview. 
TAM ratings are again under fire. This time by the News Broadcasters Association who have rejected the weekly ratings and demanded monthly figures as such short time ratings bring in unhealthy competition. 
Contrary to the last government's experience in Tamil Nadu, ARASU, this time is doing well under AIDMK. Already 3700 last mile operators and independent MSOs have joined the network in all the major districts. All pay channels except the rival Sun TV Group, have given their support to them. If it uses the right strategies, it may topple the MSO balance in their favour in the state, cutting down the monopoly of SCV. 
Festive season has commenced and we wish very happy celebrations to all of you. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma


Thursday, 1 September 2011

September 2011

1/9/11 -- MSM launched its music channel Sony Mix.

Anna, Anna and more Anna

Anna Hazare and his fight for corruption took over all headlines on the news channels in August. Almost all channels, in particular, the national news channel had relegated all other news for Anna's protest. 
The fight against corruption has been going on since long but the exposure that the media chose to give to Anna's protest made a hero out of a frail old man from an unknown village of Maharashtra overnight. Well, right or wrong, this was also the show of strength by the Indian Media. This is a second time in recent past when we watched the power of media being used/ misused. 
The first time was when we saw Rupert Murdoch and his tabloid ' News of the World' going down due to misuse of the media power by hacking phones of innocent people to get the breaking news. The incident rocked the British Parliament and embarrassed the government in power. In Anna Hazare's case too our overzealous media over-exposed the Civil Society demeaning the government, a matter which rocked the Indian Parliament. The reaction to the smear campaign is still occupying most of the time on our news channels.
Parliamentarians and many other organizations have criticized the media, in particular the television news channels for taking a one sided view of the protest and gathering the support of the masses by over exposing the discussions and incriminating speeches at the Ramlila Ground. 
This clearly highlights the damages that an unbridled media can to do to the society. But with the government resolve to let the media regulate itself, how long one will have to see such mishandled mass movements in the country? Perhaps the anchor sitting in the studio shouting, screaming and managing the discussions to bring home his/ the channel editor's point of view does not realize what damage his provocations can do to the viewer's psyche. 
Very rightly the election commission has issued guidelines for all the news channels regarding paid news before the elections. Even I & B ministry have issued guidelines for programmes involving children. This was long overdue, considering that almost every entertainment channel has live shows involving children and also child actors acting in TV serials and ads. 
Cloud computing is the latest phenomenon in the IT world making it more efficient and economical for enterprises without incurring heavy recurrent costs. It has a great value for large broadcasting organizations having their tentacles all over the globe. We introduce the concept in this issue. 
Video content of late, is finding many more distribution platforms to reach out to the viewers. Service providers have to find a single system to deliver content to all platforms. We discuss the matter in the issue highlighting some new content delivery methods. 
IBC is being held in this month and we hope to see many new technologies of content production management and distribution in the show. Hope to see many of you there. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



Monday, 1 August 2011

August 2011

1/8/11 -- The European soccer event, Euro 2012, has moved away from ESPN Star Sports (ESS) to Neo Sports. The rights will be for the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives).

Media Dominance is Dangerous

It was unimaginable to see Rupert Murdoch, world's greatest media Mogul, seated in front of the British Parliamentary committee along with his son James Murdoch, trying to answer the serious criminal allegations of phone hacking, including those of some murder victims, victims of crimes, royal family members and politicians. One could see his hesitation in answering some of the questions, accepting his inability to know everything that was happening in his media empire and finally apologizing to all when the proceedings were being broadcast to millions of TV viewers all across the world. 
It was also interesting to see how the Indian Media covered the event. Apart from carrying the live broadcast of three hours grilling of the tycoon in the Parliament by BBC and CNN, most of the Indian news media avoided discussing the UK issue in the news. They spent all the time discussing if Indian Politicians could do a similar questioning of a VVIP in front of the cameras. 
It was quite understandable because Rupert Murdoch has his fingers in every media pie in India which apart from Star Empire includes NDTV, TV Today, TAM, ABP, Wall Street Journal, Radio, MSOs, DTH and internet properties. I am surprised how the Indian system has no checks for such monopolisation. This laxity and subservient attitude of our government is responsible for the present state of the country marred by various scams where a few industrial houses rule the country's economy depriving the masses of their dues. Poorer are getting poorer and rich are getting richer. 
It does not make much of a difference when the fingers are raised at the political bigwigs as they have become shameless and find innovative ways to get out of the rut unscathed, be it Kalmadi of CWG fame, Raja of 2G scam and Yeddyurappa of Karnataka mining scam.
I am afraid, it may not stall the progress on digitalization which could be kept pending for some more time proving disastrous for the industry. The Ministry, however is doing its best and has constituted a task force to implement digitalization fast. 
DTH is making good progress in the country connecting 2.5 million people in the first quarter of the year, increasing its reach to 35 million connections. Thanks to DTH, new technologies like HDTV, VoD, DVR, Sling media etc. are fast penetrating into the Indian homes and now many 3D television brands have also entered the market even when there is no 3D broadcast as yet. This month we carry the main story on DTH Market giving views of some prominent people. 
TRAI has issued a consultation paper on Mobile VAS and asked for the views of the stake holders. Also, I & B Ministry has made guidelines on employing children for TV programmes. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



Friday, 1 July 2011

July 2011

2/7/11 -- Cartoon Network announced a joint agreement with Singapore's MDA to launch Snaptoons .

Taiwan, a nation to Emulate

Last Month I had an opportunity to visit Taiwan, a tiny island country and was amazed to see such a small country supplying best of the technology products to the whole world. Their share of the world market in PCs, Smartphones, LCDs etc is so impressive that one wonders how could a country with just 23 million population achieve so much. It is the sheer determination to keep themselves ahead of the world that keeps them working hard.Their success in the world of electronics is purely because of their strong R&D infrastructure which has lead them to have several patents in technology that rules the modern world. 
This month we are also focusing subscriber management and billing systems and customer related issues. These systems are very essential in the process of digitalisation and also to introduce transparent and better customer relations . Our endeavour is to inform our readers about all facts of digitalization so that they get mentally prepared to meet the government deadlines when they are finally notified. 
Broadcast Asia, Asia’s biggest trade show for broadcast and communications technologies was held last month at Singapore. This time Broadcast Asia and Communic Asia were held at two different venues and inspite of that there was no dearth of visitors. The focus this time, was on new media and 3DTV. Now you don’t have to wear the polarised glasses to view 3DTV. Not only on TV, 3D is now available on mobiles too. Hybrid TV and OTT are the other technologies becoming popular. 
Trend is to provide the customer the content when he wants and where he wants. Even multiple platform file transfer solutions are galore in the market now. This has opened up new vistas of revenue generation for the content producers. 
TV channels went overboard last month reporting Baba RamDev’s protest fast against corruption 24x7, making one wonder if these channels had no other news. We could get minute to minute details of his pulse, blood pressure and temperature on the screen which made many viewers switch off their TVs in anguish or change to non-news channels. But I wonder why none of the News Channels carried the news about protest by more than 10000 cable operators of Tamil Nadu on 7 June 2011 in Chennai. God knows, why do we have so many news channels? Anyway, one more news channel, GNN News has been launched last month and another Express News has commenced their trials. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

June 2011

1/6/11 -- Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) chairman Subhash Chandra will receive the 2011 International Emmy Directorate Award at The International Emmy Awards Gala in New York on 21 November.

I & B’s Future Strategy

I & B Ministry has made its strategic plan for the next five years which is placed on Ministry's Website. In the SWOT analysis carried out by the Ministry there are more 'Weaknesses' than 'Strengths'. Also, The solutions given or the actions to be implemented are more of a paper work which gets repeated every five years rather than some solid points on which action can be taken. Most of the planning pertains to the Public Broadcasters who, in any case spend more and output less. We are yet to see their projects of DTT & Mobile TV started many years ago, taking off for the masses. Their HD project started during CW Games although operational, is hardly visible because of dearth of FTA HD STBs and high cost of HDTVs. I Don't think any content is being produced in HD by Doordarshan. 
IBF, the apex body of Television broadcasters has finally come up with its self regulatory mechanism forming a Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC) headed by a former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. The only hitch is that less than fifty broadcasters out of 600 plus are members of IBF and some of them are news broadcasters who are not governed by these self regulations as NBA the News Broadcasters Association has made the self regulatory code for them and also has its own complaint redressal committee. 
Regional broadcasters have also formed their association recently as they don't wish to align with IBF. Here again, the body has come up because broadcasters don't appear government to interfere in their affairs and the government does not have the courage to pull up this powerful lobby. Many of them are active politicians or support a political party. 
Announcement of digitalization deadlines by the Ministry has brought in some positive results. Major MSOs like DEN, Hathway, DIGICable and InCable have started planning to invest in value added services, high definition and broadband. Hope the government does not slow down once again in supporting the industry. 
A task force has also been made headed by the Additional Secy. to chalk out a road map for digitalization and also resolve various issues to expedite the process. The task force had its first meeting recently and things appear to be moving in the right direction. 
Television Media is very busy these days as a number of TRP attracting events have occured in the recent past. World Cup, IPL, Osama’s death, Royal Wedding all were a boon to the News Channels. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma




Sunday, 1 May 2011

May 2011

2/5/11 -- The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), has announced that it had approved a “Self Regulatory Guidelines and Complaints Redressal Mechanism” for all non news channels, including general entertainment, children and special interest channels. Justice A P Shah, retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, will head the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC).

Supporting Regulatory Environment - An Immediate Need

This month we bring a special issue on digitalization. This subject has gained importance now as, for the first time the I&B Ministry has given their deadlines and phases to achieve this throughout the country. 
We are very glad that many experts in the industry from different fields have come forward with their views on this issue suggesting some immediate action by the government. One very important point that comes out from summarizing all these viewpoints is that merely setting dates to complete the process of digitalization is not sufficient. We need a supporting regulatory system and government’s ‘will’ to implement the same, irrespective of any pressures from various lobbies, national or international. 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Digitalisation Deadlines await Notification

The Telecom Regulatory Authority has stuck on their deadlines for completing the process of digitalization by 31st December 2013, even after receiving Ministry's suggestion of postponing it to 31st March 2015. Experts in the industry call it an ambitious proposal. However TRAI Chairman J S Sarma defends the deadlines saying that we should be in a hurry to achieve this lest, we miss the great opportunity of using the Digital Power to uplift the Economy. 
What Mr Sarma has in mind is very true. This is also reflected in the National Broadband Plan proposed by TRAI to the government where more responsibility has been given to the cable TV operators who are yet to take-off in this direction, even more than the telecom players who are reaping the benefits of Government subsidies for the last ten years but achieved a mere 10 million broadband connectivity, a matter to be ashamed of. 

Friday, 1 April 2011

April 2011

1/4/11 -- The Times of India has entered into the world of applications (apps) with the launch of iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry applications.

Time to Stop the Blame Game

Time to Stop the Blame Game The month of March kept us extremely busy with four major events namely, CASBAA Satellite Forum, Delhi, FICCI Frames in Mumbai, Convergence India in New Delhi and CCBN (China); the later three ran concurrently on the same dates. I feel now the markets are global and the organizers should coordinate the dates in such a way that such clashes don’t occur. All the events are very important for the industry and everyone should get a chance to attend. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

March 2011

1/3/11 -- Penthouse announces the launch of another first: Penthouse 3D – the first Pan European 3D formatted adult channel.

Regulations must support Digitisation

Digitalisation has become the main focus of the government now. TRAI has reacted to I&B Ministry’s comments on its earlier recommendations of the sunset dates and still feels that digitalization in the country can be implemented by December 2013. It is not so much setting the dates that will make us achieve the target, it is making supporting regulations that will encourage digitalization. 
The fact is that deferring the implementation in 2003, after making the law was the biggest mistake of the Government. We all know that it was done for political motives just before the elections but the damage it has done to the psyche of the MSOs and Cable operators has dissuaded them from investing more on up-gradation of technology. Now only thoughtful, encouraging and a firm regulation can make the process to move forward at desired speed. Any regulation made for the purpose should focus more on consumers than anything else because, if consumers accept digitalization in the right perspective, half the battle will be won. 

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

February 2011

1/2/11 -- Viacom18 Media has launched Colors and MTV India in Singapore as it seeks to rapidly expand on its international revenues.

Budget may boost Digitalisation

Amidst investigations of various scams, the UPA government is busy drafting a populist budget that may ease their situation a little. There is no end to inflation which, in-spite of our growing economy is adversely affecting our daily lives. Billions of dollars stashed away in various Tax heavens by Indian residents and Supreme Court’s pressure on the government to do something about that is another worry the government is facing. 2G scam has already worried the government to great extent. Although, expected GDP growth figures are encouraging, how much budget allocation the broadcast industry will get from the government under these circumstances can be easily guessed? 
Our lead story in this issue discusses various budgetary proposals put up by the industry to the Finance Ministry. These proposals are meant to cover the digitalisation process and in view of the subject getting government’s utmost attention for providing broadband services in the rural areas as recommended by TRAI in National Broadband Plan. 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

January 2011

1/1/11 -- Manav Entertainment & Media Pvt. Ltd. Launched a Hindi GEC Channel “ Me Home TV”.

Digitalisation and Addressability are the Key to the Future

We have reached the end of 2010, full of enthusiasm to enter the digital age. Although the year gone by made us witness many disappointing events, mainly of the corrupt practices in all segments of society, be it telecom, broadcasting, sports, politics or real estate. There were many positive happenings like TRAI's recommendations for the National Broadband Plan, beginning of High Definition Broadcast and 3G services, MSOs coming in lime light with successful IPOs and also the very first independent Cable Operator launching his IPO. To top it all we have the Consultation Paper from TRAI for interconnect Regulations in Non-Addressable Cable TV sector to resolve the issue of assumed connectivity.

Can Infrastructure be Shared in Broadcasting Sector

Broadcasting Industry today has grown to an enormous size in the country. Each Distribution Platform Operator (DPO) retransmits on an ave...