Monday, 10 March 2014

LCOs Struggle for their Rights

Of late, many untoward incidents have started occurring in the industry due to neglect of regulator in taking action on the grievances of LCOs. Disputes between MSOs and LCOs over billing, submission of CAF forms and revenue share have increased. In one case firing was resorted to in a meeting of an MSO and LCOs and in another, some unidentified people has badly beaten up an MSO official. These things do not talk well of industry’s health. Such things happened in early nineties when the industry was evolving. We used to call it the Wild West of cable TV. Industry must find solution to such problems if it wants to progress.
Already in many states matter has gone to court because the Ministry and the regulator have totally forgotten the smaller players, be it LCOs or small broadcasters who are now forced to approach the judiciary, for justice. LCOs are fighting for their revenue share and control of subscribers and small broadcasters have gone to the High Court against Ad Cap regulations that will restrict their revenue earning capacity, making their business unviable.

Government’s attitude not to look after the small stakeholders and care only for the big guns has lead to the situation of chaos and uncertainty. If no action is taken by the Ministry or the regulator, this situation may linger on for a long time wasting investments of crores of Rupees in mandatory digitization, reaping no benefit from the much hyped process. 
News channels have recently come under fire for paid news, biased news and politically motivated news during this heated environment of forthcoming general elections. In fact politicians are directly making accusations on news editors and owners of the news channels for being politically aligned or commercially oriented. Situation in the industry may remain like this till the elections are over and a new government is formed. Improvement if any, will only be visible in the second half of the year.
LCOs in Chennai are in trouble as ARASU cable, the State run MSO does not let them collect more than Rs 70 from subscribers per connection. There is a constant struggle going on in the state for the survival of LCOs. ARASU does not even have a DAS licence as the Ministry does not want any state or political party to run a media business. However, ARASU has gone to Court against the government. ARASU has connected 30000 LCOs in the state and if licence of ARASU gets cancelled, LCOs will face a very difficult situation.
TRAI has appealed in Supreme Court to raise the cable TV tariff in non-CAS/DAS areas due to inflation. I feel this is a wrong time to do this. Already pay channel rates are very high for the majority of consumers. In DAS areas, consumers are paying much more now in digital packages. Let us see when the new government is formed in may after the general elections, how does it handle the situation.   
 Asia's largest broadcasting and Cable TV event, CCBN in Beijing, China will take place from 20-22 March. I am sure many of you will like to go and see the latest technologies being presented.

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