Saturday, 1 June 2013

TRAI in Cross Fire of Media Ownership

After completing Phase-1 and 2 ministry has not talked about Phase-3 and 4. The hurry and impatience shown to make first two phases a success is nowhere seen in implementation of Phase 3 and 4.
It confirms my belief that there was a hidden agenda in hurriedly implementing Phase-1 and 2 so that maximum benefit could be given to a particular large media group who has been trying to monopolise the market through its numerous channels, MSO network and DTH. Since all TAM cities have been covered, ministry is taking easy now onwards. 

I am not sure how long will it take to stabilize digital cable market in this uncertain condition but the positive side is that digitalization has commenced in a big way. The uncertainty remains in the control of last mile held strongly by the LCOs whom the government wanted to sideline in the process of digitization. However LCOs are in no mood to hand it over to large MSOs without any resistance even if they have to go against the new DAS regulations.
I personally feel it was the duty of the government to ensure that LCOs retain their stake in the last mile till they either consolidate to add value to the digital environment or quit on their own. No one would like to lose one's years old source of livelihood just because a government is bent upon doing it.
This is exactly where our regulations have gone wrong. The way stakeholders are joining up in the court petitions it is clear that the government, the pay broadcasters and the MSOs are on one side and LCOs and Consumers on the other side. LCOs petition against TDSAT order on revenue share rejecting their plea has been admitted in the Supreme Court. Although I am not confident on LCOs winning against a law even if it is bad, results of this petition may hold the key to the future of LCOs in the industry. 
Cross Media ownership is once again on the scanner but I feel it is for the wrong reasons. The issue has already been brought up twice earlier without any results. I do not think that the government is really serious about monopolies of big media groups in the industry. Since elections are coming next year, government's attention on the subject is mainly due to monopolies of companies supported by political groups who are in the opposition in states like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat etc. TRAI faced stiff questioning from Cable Operators during the five open house discussions it held in different cities. It is a shame that it had to call for massive police help to safeguard against any backlash from the cable operators who are peeved by the TRAI Regulations. 
TRAI has issued a Tariff Order for supply of STBs and CPEs to cable and DTH subscribers respectively. It is late but nevertheless it may streamline the sale/ renting of STBs benefitting the subscribers who have been cheated in the first two phases where they paid to the MSOs without getting any receipts.
Ad duration cap of 12 mnts per hour on all TV channels will now be implemented from 01 October. At last it will be a big relief to subscribers.
Broadcast Asia will be held this month in Singapore. Focus will be on multiplatform broadcasting and we all must make best use of the trade fair to acquaint ourselves with new technologies so that we can run our business efficiently.   

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma


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