Chairing a seminar held in Delhi this week, Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Ambika Soni, emphasised on the need for digitisation of the Indian TV broadcasting industry. The seminar was attended by a cross-section of the television industry, including channel heads, producers, marketing chiefs, financial experts, artistes as well as representative from Government bodies to sort out the problems besetting the industry. Ravishankar Prasad, Senior BJP leader and former I&B Minister and Sharad Yadav, MP, JDU, were among the eminent political dignitaries present at the seminar. The conference was organised by the Indian Television Academy.
Speaking on the way ahead for Indian broadcasting industry, Soni stressed that the industry needed to go digital at an accelerator pace. She said, “There is a greater need of placing certain mechanisms that can ensure that this process is not jeopardised. We need to understand that most of the transmission in the country is analogue and controlled by powerful people. We need to think about their employment also before any kind of digitisation takes place.” She further said that if there was greater demand for DTH, the Government would allow more operators and added that they were in talks with TRAI on the same.
Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor, CNN-IBN, raised a very serious issue pertaining to the TV news industry when he said that news channels needed protection in various states from the cable operators, who sometimes went against any channel and stopped its transmission in an area. “We need to recognise those people who interfere in our business. The Government should find out if the people who have entered in this business are accountable,” he affirmed.
Meanwhile, speaking on the same note, Rajat Sharma, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India TV, said, “Political leaders and parties are controlling cable in various cities/ states, which is certainly a big threat for the industry. After 26/11, we (news channels) started introspecting, and the result was that our content quality has improved over a period of time. Now, communication is very frequent among the editors of various channels.”
Speaking on the pressing need for fresh revenue source for TV news channels, G Krishnan, CEO, TV Today, asked that why the Government should not allow TV channels to get digitised? “We want 50-50 per cent of subscription and advertisement revenue. The issue of subscription revenue has to be fixed soon,” he added.
Upset with the present scenario of the TV media industry, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Mad rush of TRPs is being maintained in a very undemocratic manner. TRP records should be subjected to public scrutiny. The situation is not at all healthy. We should be honest, introspect and then see the ground reality.” He further noted that when CAS (Conditional Access System) was being implemented, it were broadcasters who were against this. He added that he had visited several places in India, including small villages, and found that people enjoyed TV discussions, programmes and Saas-Bahu shows. “This is an indication of the growth of the Indian media industry in the last one decade,” he noted.
Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India, commented that self regulation was a gigantic leap taken forward by the TV media industry. “The industry is making sure that self regulation should maintain freedom of the press along with the responsibility,” he commented.
Replying to the various allegations on TAM and its methodology, LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research, said that the present set of data could help in building the industry. He also explained some of the TAM research numbers by saying, “Eighty per cent of the people view only 40-45 channels. Ninety-nine per cent advertisements are restricted to 110 channels. Eighty-five per cent news viewing is restricted to top 10 channels only.” He further said that they wanted to operate in the North-Eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, too, provided they got security in these places. “We are ready to work together with the industry and the Government,” Krishnan concluded.