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Broadcasters show solidarity against TRAI

Top Indian broadcasters – Star & Disney India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE), Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), Viacom18, Discovery Communications, Turner International, ETV and TV Today Network –shared a stage on Friday showing solidarity against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s latest amendments to broadcast sector tariff order.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 10, 2020, 07.30 PM IST
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(L-R) Punit Misra, K Madhavan, Punit Goenka, N.P.Singh, Uday Shankar, Aroon Purie, Sudhanshu Vats, Megha Tata, I.Venkat .
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MUMBAI: In a dramatic move, top Indian broadcastersStar & Disney India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE), Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), Viacom18, Discovery Communications, Turner International, ETV and TV Today Network –shared a stage on Friday showing solidarity against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) latest amendments to broadcast sector tariff order.

Under the aegis of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the top honchos of these companies pointed out how the new regulations are going to “strangulate” the growth of the industry, hinting at the grouping exploring legal recourse.

ET reported on Friday that the broadcasters are planning to move courts against Trai.

Saying that the amendments can potentially trigger another round of “large-scale disruptions”, and are “detrimental” to the “orderly growth” of the sector, NP Singh, MD & CEO of SPN and president of IBF said that collectively, broadcasters have spent over Rs 1,000 crore in just communicating the changes to the consumers, and even then there was an overall loss of 12-15 million subscribers in the process.

Singh pointed out that in the last 15 years of regulating the broadcast sector, Trai has issued more than 36 tariff orders, in an attempt to “micro-manage” what is arguably the most “value for money” form of news and entertainment in the world. “This goes contrary to the government's stated position of ensuring the ease of doing business,” Singh said.

Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific, and chairman of Star India and The Walt Disney Company India, asked that if a thoughtful, comprehensive, collaborative exercise was done last year, then what was the need for the amendments? “It clearly means the previous exercise was not thoughtful,” Shankar said.

Calling out the contradictions as “ludicrous”, Shankar said, “... suddenly the whole thing is being reset to zero... the regulator doesn't seem to care about this. If (the regulator) is so concerned with bringing down the price for the consumer then why, in the name of NCF (network capacity fee), are distributors being allowed to charge as much as Rs 160 for something the DD FreeDish is giving for free?”

He added that ultimately, the new regulations will mean that the choice for consumers will go down as smaller channels will not be able to survive. “Long tail of channels will be wiped out,” he warned.

India Today Group chairman Aroon Purie pointed out that the new regulations are not facilitating but strangulating the industry. “It’s like killing the golden goose,” he said.

Megha Tata, MD - South Asia at Discovery Communications India, said that India is already the cheapest cable market in the world and future of the industry is in “jeopardy” with such micromanaging.

Sudhanshu Vats, MD and Group CEO of Viacom18 shared that here has to be a frequency of change. “You can’t keep making frequent change. From 2003, our rates have grown less than half of the rate of inflation.

Vats, who is also VP of IBF, added that the objectives of the new tariff order (NTO) were to give choice to consumers, to bring transparency and to reduce litigation. He pointed out that there is over 94% awareness of NTO and choice among consumers.

“The month on month churn in industry shows that people are continuously fine-tuning their choices. The other objective of NTO was transparency which it has also brought in. The question therefore, is what is the fundamental need to change again? In my opinion there was no need,” said Vats.

IBF might file a petition in the Bombay high court early next week, even as Trai chairman RS Sharma has called a press conference on Monday.

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