In its three decades of existence, the promising broadcast narrative in India continues to be challenged on issues such as transparency, pricing, taxation, consumer choice and lack of a coherent regulatory and policy framework.
To find a solution to these and similar questions, a panel anchored by media analyst, author and columnist Vanita Kohli Khandekar highlighted a session on the Future of Vision 2020 - laying a transformative roadmap for Indian broadcasting. The panelists stressed issues for unlocking value in Indian broadcasting on the first day of the FICCI Frames convention held on 25 March in Mumbai.
Speakers who shared their opinion and views were I&B Ministry additional secretary JS Mathur, TRAI principal advisor SK Gupta, BBC Global News CEO Jim Egan, Siti Cable CEO VD Wadhwa, Star India COO Sanjay Gupta, Tata Sky CEO Harit Nagpal, Viacom 18 Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats and Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific south Asia and southeast Asia GM and executive VP Rahul Johri.
According to Wadhwa, in order for the media and entertainment sector to grow, digitisation should be completed. “Digitisation must be completed and that will bring in transparency. Secondly, we need to work together to see how can we monetise the business far better.”
It may be recalled that in phase I and II of digitisation, average revenue per user (ARPU) had witnessed a significant jump in places where people were consuming cable broadband. In response to that, Nagpal said, "We can either have monopolies or regulations but one has regulation where there are monopolies. I believe that I am digging my own grave if I am not serving my customers and as a regulator, we need to make sure that he is getting adequate infrastructure to do his job well."
Sharing his views on the media and entertainment sector, Star's Gupta said that today the industry size is close to Rs 30,000 crore and the big challenge going forward will be on how to make it a Rs 300,000 crore industry. Gupta opined that the one fundamental issue that plagues the industry is that they have regulated the industry from a wrong perspective. “You need to get the capital to invest high, while creating innovation for consumers. That’s how industries have grown. However, that is the challenge for the M&E industry.”
When on the one hand broadcasters believe that regulation is not required, on the other hand TRAI's Gupta had a different opinion. “If regulation is not required then what is required? Is it that we are required to keep quiet on the customer front if they are not getting any choice?” he questioned.
He went on to add that the country has 30 million DTH customers, 30 million DAS customers and 10 million addressable systems. However, the question was how many consumers have the choice of individual channels? “If I ask a consumer if he/she is watching all the channels given to them, the answer will be a big no. Therefore the price can be deregulated and total selection of the channel should be given to the consumer at the desired price. And for this to happen certain broad guidelines should be created and this should be done soon.”
Picking up points from Sanjay and S K Gupta, Vats said that in order to drive the size of the pie, pricing is the difficult thing. “If we focus on the price of the analogue cable, in some way, we are constraining the ‘X’ to increase and my request is that if we become open to it, we will allow the ‘Y’ to increase. The moment we allow the ‘Y’ to increase, I think we will define the problem collectively better between LMOs, MSOs, broadcasters etc.”
Vats was of the view that competition needs to be encouraged, even though there is enough competition in the media and entertainment industry. “Competition itself will ensure that we are reaching out to every possible Indian, outside India as well. It happens in every industry, why has it not happened here?” A firm believer of a free market, Vats is confident that it will drive the industry and take it to the next level.