Paritosh Joshi | Digitization’s best kept secret

30 Aug,2012

By Paritosh Joshi

 

The entire Television industry: Equipment makers, Broadcasters, Distribution Platform Operators like DTH Players or MSOs; and finally, the end consumer, are all on the verge of extreme anxiety. The government, having notified the “THE TELECOMMUNICATION (BROADCASTING AND CABLE SERVICES) INTERCONNECTION (DIGITAL ADDRESSABLE CABLE TELEVISION SYSTEMS) REGULATIONS, 2012”, is on pins and needles wondering whether full compliance is possible on time and hoping it won’t have another embarrassment on its hands.

 

The analogue sunset for our big cities, while it has been pushed back, is imminent and even if it gets another postponement, it will have to be completed soon.

 

What were the technologies that were considered by lawmakers when legislating digitization? A cursory reading of the ponderously named regulations will reveal that all options involve an intermediary “cable operator” defined as a “person who provides cable service through a cable television network or otherwise controls or is responsible for the management and operation of a cable television network”.

 

Given that we have all but forgotten an era when a broadcaster (Doordarshan) provided its signals sans intermediary to consumers that they could pluck right off the air, it is scarcely surprising; but a good 30 million homes still receive their TV unintermediated. Remember the antenna?  (Evidently, none of those 30 million are reading this piece).

 

And here’s another little factoid. As much as 44% of all TV consumption in the US is still from broadcast TV. We in India have apparently forgotten that terrestrial broadcast still represents the quickest and least expensive path to digitization.

 

There are many reasons why terrestrial broadcast TV is ideal for India:

 

  • It is, by and large, FTA. Obviously you can run an encrypted channel as easily on broadcast as on satellite but in the main, broadcast TV works on advertising or public subsidy supported models.
  • It ends the tyranny of the intermediary and of all manner of anti-competitive piggybacking models.
  • It advances the cause of plurality of choice. So far we have only understood this in the context of programming but it is as legitimately an issue for platform plurality and choice as well. Remember that the MIB misses no opportunity to remind us about how important these virtues are.
  • It directly posits competition to the cable & satellite industry. (That doesn’t even need any elaboration, does it?)
  • It reasserts the citizens’ right over the broadcast spectrum, which is by definition a public resource.
  • It creates a new ‘spectrum auction’ style revenue source for the exchequer.
  • It enables the decentralization of TV. Terrestrial broadcast is line-of-sight. While a substantial portion of the content may be re-broadcast from shared, national channels, it opens huge possibilities for a new creative, and commercial, tier- local TV.

 

So why has the private broadcast industry remained strangely silent on this issue?

 

Let us remind ourselves that the metros are only the first milestones on the digitisation journey and a whole country must follow over the following years.

 

Paritosh Joshi was until recently CEO, Star CJ. He has been a marketer, a mediaperson and on the Board/committees of various industry bodies. He can reached via his Twitter handle @paritoshZero

 

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One response to “Paritosh Joshi | Digitization’s best kept secret”

  1. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    Bandwidth kahan hai…!!! Will the private broadcasters shell out the same money for buying airwaves as did by Telcos?