As the year ends, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) takes stock of all the initiatives and operational measures taken in 2008. exchange4media has covered all these initiatives and policies as they were taken. While some in the industry were overjoyed, there were the others who had felt that although the steps taken were small, nevertheless they were in the right direction. As the MIB puts it, the aim of the ministry was to ensure smooth flow of information to the masses as well as quality of content and reception of telecast signals on the electronic media during the year.
Efforts in DTH and digitisation of cable
The direct-to-home (DTH) sector is seen as a strong growth area in the broadcasting medium. Even the current economic slowdown could not dampen the DTH spirit. The MIB had recognised the importance of DTH a couple of years back, and this was the year when the results were showing. Not only did the established players strengthen themselves further but many new players entered in the space this year.
The Prasar Bharati provided DD Direct+ is the only free to air DTH service in India. Besides this, Dish TV, Tata Sky, Sun Direct TV, Reliance Big TV, Bharti Telemedia and Bharat Business Channel are the other private commercial DTH service operators.
With the DTH players giving the cable industry a tough competition, the challenge for the latter was to retain consumers. The expansion of Conditional Access System (CAS) was seen by the cable industry as the only way to compete with the DTH players and retain their consumers. The MIB claims to be going by the TRAI recommendations on this, and therefore working on extending the CAS area firstly to the remaining parts of the three metros of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and then to the 55 cities. Measures are also being considered to bring down the cost of the set top box by rationalisation of tax and duty structure.
IPTV, HITS and Mobile TV: The advent of new platforms
The MIB kept an eye on the growth of digitisation on the cable front and DTH grew too. This however did not deter the Ministry to announce initiatives on newer platforms like Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), Head end-in-the-sky (HITS) and Mobile TV.
The policy on IPTV was announced on September 8, 2008 under which the content would be regulated as per the Programme and Advertisement Codes as prescribed under the Cable Act, which takes care of several apprehensions including those with respect to provisioning of obscene content. One of the benefits of this policy is that it facilitates IPTV service providers to create its own content except for the news and current affairs. IPTV is seen by many to play a big role in the coming times.
The key factor in conversion of small time cable operators to the digital mode of delivery is the investment required to be made in the setting up of the digital head end, CAS and Short Messaging Service (SMS). HITS mode of delivery of content can help bring down these costs for the small time cable operators, thus speeding up the transition. The TRAI recommendations on HITS are being considered in the Ministry for laying down a policy.
With the rapid growth in the penetration of mobile in India, which has been faster than the internet growth, the government has indicated that it is in consideration on opening up terrestrial television broadcasting so that operators can offer mobile television services in the country. The proposed policy inter-alia covers all issues such as licensing, regulatory mechanism, cross-media restrictions, foreign investment, sharing of infrastructure, etc. The TRAI recommendations are also under consideration with the Government. Ministry is also considering permitting field trials for different broadcasting technologies for mobile TV transmission.