The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will come out with a policy framework for the broadcasting sector with a vision till 2020, deliberations for which have begun over a two days seminar. The seminar is aimed at re-defining existing business models, understanding evolving technologies, innovation, trends and changing consumer dynamics. A number of experts from India and abroad will discuss various issues, challenges and emerging trend for the broadcasting sector, including the use and untapped potential of broadcasting for improving education, health, governance and how the farmers community and agricultural sector can make use of the powerful broadcasting media.
“It is expected that deliberations would result in developing strategies and recommendations for addressing some concerns related to broadcasting sector in India,” the regulator said in a statement. “The objective of the seminar is to draft a blueprint for the policy and regulatory roadmap for digital broadcasting in India with vision of 2020,” it added. The broadcasting sector has evolved over the years and is contributing to nearly half of total revenue of overall media and entertainment industry. India has over 900 private satellite TV channels, 35 TV channels of public sector broadcaster (Doordarshan), 200 community radio stations, 281 private FM channels and several radio channels of All India Radio. Broadcasting TV distribution sector comprises of more than 60000 local cable operators, more than 1200 multi system operators, 7 DTH operators and a few IPTV service providers.
In order to create an enabling environment for growth of the broadcasting sector in the light of various developments related to technology, emergence of multiple distribution platforms, evolving business models, and enhanced addressability across platforms, TRAI brought out unified regulatory framework in March, 2017 for all addressable broadcasting TV services which includes tariff, interconnection and quality of service regulations. This framework is expected to usher a new era in the broadcasting sector where MRP of the TV channel will be declared by the broadcasters directly to the consumers and will bring more transparency and choices to the consumers, the regulator said. “The telecommunication and broadcasting sectors are at the cusp of another change – transition from voice to data and finally to converge services. In this scenario, TRAI is gearing up to meet the future challenges and this seminar is one of the steps in this direction,” it added.
Regulation takes healthy democracy
Regulation is required in a healthy democracy. However, regulation should not become strangulation to stop the growth, Minister for Information & Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu said at the two-day seminar organised by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the occasion of completing two decades. “Without regulation, there will be exploitation. Because of regulator, the prices are low and there is some sort of competition,” Naidu added.
Speaking on the role of TRAI, the minister said that the transition to digital broadcasting had posed several challenges and the role of TRAI was extremely crucial in this regard for overcoming any hurdles that may put the transition to newer technologies on a slow path. Naidu congratulated TRAI on completing two decades of regulatory services to the nation, which had contributed immensely to the growth of telecom and broadcasting sectors while keeping consumer protection in mind. Naidu said that the goods and services tax (GST) reform will prove to be a game changer for the Indian media and entertainment sector, especially the broadcasting sector.
Elaborating further, he mentioned that the broadcasting sector in the country was at the threshold of entering a new era of digital broadcasting, which would open lots of opportunities to use latest technological innovations to not only enhance reach but also enhance the quality of the reach. The revival of radio, the digitisation of cable and the free-to-air DTH audience growth point to the latent demand for broadcasting in the Indian market at a time when broadcasting in advanced markets in the west is losing out significant space to digital on-demand media platforms. He also mentioned the public broadcaster Doordarshan’s push towards Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), which is getting expanded to another 44 cities from the existing 16 cities. The minister acknowledged and appreciated TRAI’s recent recommendation on the time-bound implementation of DTT in India.
The minister stated that the government was committed to providing an enabling environment through various policies for the further growth of the media and entertainment sector. The Digital India campaign, along with the Make in India initiative, would strengthen industries such as video streaming, online music services and gaming in India, taking advantage of increased internet penetration. Naidu also mentioned that indigenous manufacturing of various digital broadcasting equipments had taken roots under the initiative of Make in India. He urged all stakeholders to encourage and promote indigenous development of equipment in the country.
Naidu stated that the gap between the premium DTH market and the low-quality cable market lay an opportunity that was currently being tapped by the FTA DTH platforms like Doordarshan’s Freedish. With transparent online auctions allowing for market-based discovery of the value of these FTA channels, there was an audience revolution of sorts with rural audiences getting on the FTA DTH bandwagon and contributing to enhancing the number of entertainment channels, he noted.