Digitization is going to be the biggest reform in broadcast sector: Ambika Soni

07 May,2012

By Shruti Pushkarna


High drama ensued at the Assocham event inNew Delhias local cable operators (LCOs) flagged black ribbons at the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Mrs Ambika Soni. The Minister was attending the 6th Annual Summit on Entertainment and Media organized by Assocham, Focus 2012: Digitization for Inclusive Growth. As the theme suggests, one of the primary issues discussed at the event was Digitization of Cable television.


The LCOs were protesting against the recent tariff order issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which they claim is an unfair order against all small operators. Following the heated arguments between cable operators present at the event venue and the Minister, one of the cable operators, Sandeep Mcgee who is based inEast Delhithreatened to commit suicide in front of the Minister. Mrs Soni, however, tried to pacify the operators’ fraternity and asked them to file a formal letter with all their grievances against the tariff order and the regulator. She also promised to address their concerns and, if need be, raise the same with the regulator.


Addressing the concerns of broadcasters on the carriage fee mentioned in the same order, Mrs Soni said that the government will consult all stakeholders before taking a final call on the regulations decided by TRAI under which the Multi System Operators (MSOs) are allowed to charge a carriage fee from broadcasters.


Earlier, in her inaugural address, the Minister emphasized the importance of digitization for the entire industry and all stakeholders: “Digitization is going to be the biggest reform in broadcast sector and enable operators to expand their revenue sources by providing more choice and variety to customers. Digitization is imperative to tabulate subscriber base and reduce carriage fee. Digitization will also help reduce all human error in the process.”


Defending the tariff order issued by TRAI recently, she said that the government indulged in exhaustive consultations with all stakeholders on all issues including the carriage fee, and the main aim of the new regulations had been to benefit the consumer. Mrs Soni said: “The TRAI tariff order makes the viewer the most important beneficiary; the choice will be with the viewer.” As for the broadcasters, she said digitization would help reduce the dependence on TRPs and bring in transparency where every broadcaster would be in a position to identify exactly how many people are subscribing to the channel.


On the issue of media regulation, Mrs Soni said: “Let’s not condemn self-regulation per se because even though self regulation is a slower way of correcting things, it is still a surer way as it involves converting minds and hearts in the process.” She added that in the whole race to growth, the provisions of the Cable Television Regulatory Act were overlooked and it was a fault in the functioning of the government that the act had been ignored.


On the issue of Paid News, she said that while it was the worst phenomenon that existed, it’s not as easy to detect paid news. She was responding to scathing criticism of the media by the Chairman of Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju in his keynote address at the same event.


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