@FF12: Digitization – ball in industry’s court, says I&B secy

15 Mar,2012

By A Correspondent


In December 2011, Parliament had passed a bill making analog cable switch to digitization in phases, starting June 30, 2012. FICCI Frames 2012, on day one held a session on ‘Addressable Digitization – The Way Forward.’ This session had two keynote speakers, Dr JS Sarma, Chairman, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) and Uday K Varma, Secretary I&B (Information and Broadcasting), followed by a panel discussion. Almost everyone in the session agreed that digitization is now a reality and an important ingredient for India’s growth. Will digitization be a game changer? Is the industry is ready for digitization, what are the challenges and opportunities that digitization has to offer, and what’s in it for the consumers – these were some of the points raised during the session.


The session was moderated by Vivek Couto, Executive Director, Media Partners Asia. The panelists were, Sanjay Gupta, COO Star India, Sunil Lulla, CEO and MD Times Global Broadcasting, Sameer Machanda, Founder DEN Networks and Punit Goenka, MD And CEO, Zee Entertainment Ltd.


Mr Varma was of the view that since there has been no political opposition to the digitization of cable and the fact that the parliament too had passed the bill in December 2011 it is now upon the industry to make digitization a reality. Mr Varma was also quick to point out that as far as monitoring is concerned, the government has already set up mechanisms and task force as well as interest groups to address various concerns of the industry. “The progress of digitization must be a transparent process. There will be a mechanism that will be put in place to ensure transparency. We are certainly at the threshold of revolution. There are huge changes that will take place and these changes will certainly be beneficial changes especially on how we create contents.”


Dr Sarma, who will be demitting office in two months time observed, “If India has to grow, digitization will be a vital ingredient for its growth and thus it is important that we be technologically updated. Digitization is here to stay and we need to embrace this change.”


The panelists were of the view that not only the industry is ready for digitization but for some of them, it will be a game changer. While digitization will bring a lot of opportunities in terms of contents and niche channels, the industry will face some challenges too. According to Mr Machanda, digitization will be a game changer as it will bring transparency in the industry. “We are ready for digitization, we have the boxes, call centers are ready etc. I believe in the next few months we will see more momentum in the industry.”


Taking issue with Mr Machanda, Mr Gupta was of the view that it was not digitization but providing democratization of content which would be the real game changer for the industry. “The big challenge however is to not carry our analog mindset in digitization. As a broadcaster we have not catered to different audiences, we must therefore unlock the value of creating differentiated contents” he said.


Mr Goenka believed that digitization will not only encourage niche contents but, provide ample opportunities to provide good content and differentiated contents to consumers. Mr Lulla observed, “There is greater good in digitization. There is a lot of work the broadcasters have to do over the next few years as we will have to create pathways. What will however change is not the price of the business but, the view centric business wherein the consumers will decide what they want to watch and the price they want to pay for it.”


The panelists also agreed that the industry is ready for change but it needs to educate and spread awareness about the benefits digitization has to offer consumers, such as more channels and differentiated content.


Photograph: Fotocorp

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