Wednesday, 8 January 2014

2014- Hopefully a better year for the Industry

Results of Assembly elections in the four states of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh announced last month have dismayed the hopes of Congress Party as it has lost in all the states. Many are attributing this debacle to the anger of the common man, who is fed up with the rising prices of day to day needs. Although media has not highlighted due to vested interests, even additional expense forced on the common man by the Congress lead UPA government mandating digitization of the Cable TV services is being considered as one of the factors. Aam Admi Party coming to power in Delhi proves the power of common man in a democratic setup.  
As mentioned by me in my article last month. I always felt that Broadcasters took the 12 mnt Ad Cap issue to TDSAT only to delay the matter so that they get more time to violate the law and make more money till the ongoing digitisation brings better revenue to them. However, I feel it is only their hope. In reality market will be further fragmented and ad revenue will be shared among all the channels, lowering the revenue of many. 

Come 2014: DAS still in Limbo

Year 2013 has come to an end and we are yet to see any substantial progress in DAS implementation. Going by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data, the top three metros are fully digital. The next 38 towns are 75 per cent digital but the situation on the ground tell a different story. There are over 19 million subscribers across 41 cities that are covered under Phase 1 and Phase 2 of digitisation.
Chennai is still struggling with analogue cable as state run ARASU cable has not been given a DAS licence by the Ministry. Company has now approached High Court to get their licence which the I & B Ministry has been holding on the basis of recommendations of TRAI on issues regarding ownership of media by states and government bodies. 

TRAI to frame New DTH Guidelines

On 10th of December the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had held an Open House Discussion on issues related to DTH services in India.  Already two consultation papers had been issued on the subject earlier; one on 1st October 2013 on ‘Issue/Extension of DTH Licence’ and the second on 14 November on issues related to ‘new DTH licences’. This discussion was held after getting the response on both the above consultation papers from the stakeholders.

A Bolt from the Blue

An unrelated judgment by Supreme Court of India forces TDSAT to dismiss all petitions against TRAI’s  ‘ad cap’ regulations filed by broadcasters including News Broadcasters Association.
Supreme Court of India on 6th December 2013 put an end to numerous litigations in TDSAT against TRAI's authority to make certain regulations ruling that the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had no power to examine and decide questions on the regulations set by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The Court added that the aggrieved parties could challenge the validity of TRAI's regulations in the High Court. 

Regulating the Regulator

The new Regulatory Reform Bill will make TRAI much stronger giving it power to even license service providers and making it answerable direct to the Parliament.
To make infrastructure regulators such as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) autonomous, the central government has proposed making these directly answerable to Parliament. The government also has plans to grant licensing powers to all regulators in the infrastructure sector, be it electricity, telecom, posts, airports or highways.

Five Million Illegal DTH Connections

Speaking at a conference at the Karachi Press Club last October, leaders of Cable Operators Association of Pakistan, Abdul Jabar Khan, Ghufran Mustafa and others said that at least 2 million illegal Indian DTH/Dish TV had been sold in Pakistan through which the banned Indian channels were being seen in the country. They pointed out that India was earning billions of rupees through these illegal DTH devices. They said PEMRA (Pak Regulator) had issued licences to cable operators after they had got themselves registered with the government, but DTH/ Dish TV devices were being illegally sold in Pakistani markets. The COAP leaders called upon the government to put an immediate ban on the sale of illegal DTH/Dish TV devices.

A Great Start for JAINHITS

Its only last September after MediaPro gave its content of 80 channels to JAINHITS on the directions of the Supreme Court that India’s only Headend in the Sky (HITS) platform got its act going. In less than two months since MediaPro supplied its channels to JAINHITS, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) directed Sun, Sony (MSMD) and ESPN to provide their television channel signals to the platform on November 01. Thus started the journey of India’s first HITS platform that according to Ms Ambika Soni, ex I&B Minister was to help thousands of cable operators in the country to digitise their networks and provide digital services to millions of people as envisaged in mandatory digitisation policy of the government implemented in 2011. Although started late after the first two phases of digitisation are over, JAINHITS hopes to help cable operators in Phase 3 & 4 covering 75% of the market.