Industry experts have stated on various occasions that the business model for news broadcasting in India has been broken. Unlike most other countries in the world, which have strong subscription revenues, the Indian broadcasting industry is advertising driven. News broadcasters especially have been entangled in a TV-ratings-chase game and news broadcasters have often been quoted on saying that one of the after-effects of this has been content sensationalism.
“Something needed to be done to break the logjam. It was identified that not enough money was going into content as a lot was spent on distribution and hefty carriage fees. This was indeed one of the first reasons why government began thinking about digitisation, which now is the law of the land,” observed Vikram Chandra, CEO, NDTV Group.
He quoted Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni from her statement at a Parliament session to reiterate that digitisation would lead to paradigm shift in the television industry in India, specially benefitting the likes of news television.
Postponing digitisation deadline slowed momentum
Digitisation is an idea that the entire industry agreed upon and all stakeholders were moving full speed to achieve it. Chandra reminded that the pace had picked up and there was coalition supporting digitisation. Everyone, including broadcasters and cable operators, were involved and were helping and working with the government to meet deadlines.
“But the decision to postpone the deadline, and that too with a four-month blanket took the momentum away. For a market like India, where there is a tendency to do everything last minute, it is not such a good idea,” said Chandra.
The second strange thing to have happened was that for news broadcasters, carriage was the crucial question. There was assurance given by the MIB (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting) and TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) that carriage would come down, but we realised from the DAS (Digital Accessible System) that carriage had indeed gone up from Re 1 per subscriber to Rs 24 per subscriber. “And again we are not sure on the way forward,” Chandra remarked.
However, there are also positive signs from the MIB that has said in categorical terms that there would be no further extension of digitisation deadline. MIB has already taken punitive measures that send a signal of seriousness. “I see this as the right way forward, since the very future of the news broadcasting and television business per se depends on this,” concluded Chandra.
Vikram Chandra was a speaker at the exchange4media organised NewsNext, presented by Dish TV and powered by Television Street Maps.