The Indian broadcasting industry has seen many developments during that past few years but the industry continues to feel challenged with issues such as transparency, pricing, taxation, consumer choice and the lack of the best framework for policy and regulation. In a session named ‘Vision 2020 – laying a transformative roadmap for Indian Broadcasting’ at FICCI Frames 2015, industry leaders such as Jim Egan, CEO, BBC Global News, Sudhanshu Vats, CEO, Viacom18, Sanjay Gupta, COO, Star India, Rahul Johri, EVP & GM, South Asia & South East Asia, Discovery, Harit Nagpal, CEO, Tata Sky, V.D. Wadhwa, Executive Director & CEO, Siticable were joined by government spokesperson J S Mathur, Add. Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. Of India and Dr. S.K. Gupta, Principal Advisor (broadcasting & cable service), TRAI.
While S.K. Gupta began with a keynote address by stating the growth of the broadcasting industry has been large, but that the satisfaction to the customer has not been to that extent. “This has brought us to think that in spite of our best efforts things are not reaching to the consumer which is a king of the value chain. If you look at the regulatory framework one can say that a lot was required to be done, but one has to consider that the regulatory framework has got different colours,” he said. He further went on to say that they cannot have either too much regulation or a too liberal stance as it will lead to harming the industry. He said that TRAI has made various efforts to increase transparency in the sector and removed various impediments.
Mathur said there is no obstacles that TRAI has and that it has a vast stakeholder consultation before it comes down to making its recommendations. “In spite of all the various kinds of discussions that I hear about obedience that are solicited before any recommendations are formulated, within the government there are a whole lot of maze factors that need to be factored in before anything is actualised,” said Mathur. He further added that for digitization they have gone by TRAI’s recommendation.
Giving a global perspective Egan said that though there are challenges in the sector he didn’t think India should beat itself up too much. The reason for this is the growth achieved by this sector in comparison to other parts of the world. And he felt that even the regulators needed to take a share of the credit for it. He further said, “Both here in India and elsewhere in the world the only question is what is the broadcast sector going to do about the internet and the impact of digital?”. He further said the real problem is the regulation in the telecom sector as they are the most important issues for the media sector.
Wadhwa said, “There is no reason when we work together the market will become truly a B2C business. This is the time when we need to complete digitization and what each one has to contribute must be done and will bring about transparency.”
Speaking about regulation Nagpal said, “You have regulation only when you have monopolies”. He further said that when you open up your doors to competition then we will see companies paying more attention to their customers. “The regulator needs to be looking after whether they are making sure that he is getting adequate infrastructure that he needs to do his job rather than is he serving the customer right or not,” said Nagpal.
Johri spoke on less regulation from the government organisations and more in terms of facilitation. “We will do our work and rather let the regulatory support to help us fix things. This is so that we can scale out business,” he said.
Star’s Gupta on the other hand spoke about the money that they are unlocking from this industry is far too little in comparison to its potential. “As the industry is doing well as you see but it is fundamentally still very small. And the big question is what are we going to solve? How are we going to get this Rs.20,000 crore industry to become Rs.300,000 crore, I think that is the big challenge,” he said. He further said that they have regulated the industry from a wrong perspective. One of the big issues in any industry is to unlock value and get the capital to invest behind creating value innovation for consumers and this is how industries have grown, he said. He further touched upon the pricing regulations of TRAI and said that it is pricing regime of 20 years earlier.
Gupta from TRAI questioned that though there are 30 million DAS customers and 10 million addressable systems but how many of them have choice of individual channels? He said that the bouquet system still triumphs today as its price is cheaper than selecting individual channels. There needs to be certain broad guidelines he said.
Vats said that when they stay focused onto the price of the analogue regime, somewhere they are constraining the industry to grow. “If we become a little more open we will allow the pie to increase. The moment we allow pie to increase I think we will define the problem collectively better, which is between MSOs, LCOs, Broadcasters, etc.,” he said. He too said that there is a need to believe in competition as it will ensure that they reach to every possible Indian.