It appears that TRAI has finally understood the problems of regulating this 100 million households Cable TV industry. For the first time it has issued a consultation that looks at removing the biggest hurdle in the process of digitization that is, anticompetitive practices of pay TV aggregators. Independent MSOs and LMOs are now very hopeful of surviving in the industry if TRAI implements its proposal. The last date for submission of written comments for this consultation has been postponed to 3rd September.
Another good news is that TRAI has not yet postponed the implementation of 10+2 ad cap by all TV channels that is part of the Quality of Service Regulations issued by it last year in May, although I&B Minister, Manish Tewari has been advocating to delay it till end of digitization in 2014. However, sad part is that the news broadcasters rushed to TDSAT on 30th August and managed a stay on the implementation till 11 November. What is surprising is that TDSAT has stayed the implementation of a law made to benefit the consumers that exists since 2007. The issue raked up by the news broadcasters when TRAI moved a Delhi Court for prosecution of some of the broadcasters for violating the regulation.
It appears that the present chairman of TRAI Dr Rahul Khullar is serious about implementing the DAS regulations and reforms in the broadcast industry inspite of opposition from many quarters including the Ministry.
Even in the matter of getting CAF forms filled by subscribers and feeding them into the SMS systems of the MSOs in Kolkata, TRAI has stuck to its guns and ordered switching off of all defaulting subscribers after 23rd August, the extended deadline for the purpose.
As a regulator it is very important for TRAI to win the confidence of consumers as well as stakeholders, irrespective of the fact that government may desire something else. Particularly, at a time when Government is desperately trying to introduce some life saving measures into the dwindling economy, it may resort to some adhoc policies that would help only for a short while till the next year's elections, harming the industry in the long run. Increasing FDI caps even in the news channels that were kept low due to security concerns is one such measure that will help some foreign players to invest more dollars and create much bigger monopolies in the media sector.
In the meanwhile cable operators in many states are gearing up to fight for their fundamental right to earn a living. Gujarat operators are planning to file a writ petition in the High Court against infringement of their fundamental rights endangered by Tariff Order and interconnect regulations issued by TRAI for DAS implementation. These regulations pass the control of their business to MSOs.
Multiplatform distribution is the buzz word now when India is going all digital. Operators must make strategic plans to switch to multi-device, multi-platform distribution if they wish to keep pace with the converged world of the future.
IBC is being held in Amsterdam from 12th to 17th this month and I hope many of you will attend this important event where much can be learnt about the latest trends in technology in the business of broadcasting. Cable Quest is the media partner for the event.
—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma