Saturday, 1 September 2012

Hopes are being betrayed

All estimates of TRAI and Ministry regarding digitalisation are going haywire. First the deadline for the Phase I was shifted from 30 June to 31 October 2012. Then the timeline for signing `RIO agreements between broadcasters and the MSOs was shifted to 21 August. Nothing much has happened till now when the deadline is just 60 days away. Only Mumbai has achieved 50% of STB penetration. Other metros are just around 30%. This way it will be difficult to achieve the deadline of October 31st too. Moreover, not signing the RIOs is hampering further progress and TRAI is threatening to cancel the licenses of the MSOs who have not been able to sign them till now. 
One thing I can't understand, why is the Ministry not realising that the policy of compulsory digitalisation of cable TV is not the need of the day in India. Present delays are at the Broadcaster, MSO and LCO level only. Consumers are yet to face the heat of compulsory digitalisation. What if millions of people reject buying an STB even after the deadline? Will the government order their disconnection? How will the government get expected Tax revenue if there are no consumers? It is definitely a precarious situation. 

TAM is once again in a controversy due to NDTV filing a case against the company and its two parent companies in New York. Media websites as well as newspapers are publishing updates on the murky war every day. It is literally a war of words where blame game is going on from both sides. But it is not the first time this is happening. It has become a global controversy only because the legal case has been filed in the US. Similar accusations of corruption, leakage and manipulation of data and insufficient panel of people meters were made in 2001 and 2006 but people forgot about them because TAM has a monopoly and all advertising agencies use their ratings to spend Crores of rupees of the advertisers. The biggest problem is that there is no alternative and industry's own system BARC is a non starter. 
Content regulations have always bugged the I&B Ministry. It has never been able to reign in the broadcasters. Relying on self regulations has not taken us anywhere because it is not possible to control more than 800 channels by an industry body which is patronized only by a few large broadcasting groups who want to rule the industry. 
Government is becoming serious to curb adult content on the small screen. "Dirty Picture" release on TV has set in motion a regulatory process where every adult channel will have to get re-censored and get a rating of "U" or UA to be seen on the TV. Internet content is also irritating the government these days when it is facing numerous corruption scandals which are being followed and reacted upon by the netizens all over the world. 
Karnataka Operators are very sincere in celebrating the Cable Day every year on 21st August. This time they had two days celebrations at Bangalore as well as at Mysore with much fan fare. 
We shall be at IBC 2012 Amsterdam from 7-12 September and hope to see many of you there.

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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