Jaldi 5 with Anil Garg: No industry body to take care of smaller channels

15 Oct,2012

While digitization is supposed to help bring in greater transparency into the broadcast ecosystem, the real beneficiary will be the small broadcaster who could well be on a near-equal playing field as a big broadcaster. But does the small channel-owner really feel that he or she is going to benefit. While there are several independents in the business, we approached one who is indeed completely unattached to any ‘big’ force and is not part of any major broadcast association or pressure group.

 

We spoke to Anil Garg, Chairman & Managing Director, Explore Travel Channel.

 

01. Is there renewed hope for small channels such as yours given that digitization will see access fee being eliminated?

I don’t know if the access fee will be eliminated completely, but yes it will be in cases where the distributors ask a channel for the signal! The good news is that if digitization is implemented in the manner that has been mandated by the government, it will help many specialized and FTA channels to be a part of the FTA package. But most importantly, we should appreciate that the biggest beneficiary of this historic switchover to digital is going to be the consumer. They will have more choice, better quality of signals and a transparency in billing practices.

 

02. So is it goodbye to carriage fees wef November 1?

No, I don’t think so. But there will be some rationalization since the operators have more bandwidth unlike what was the case in the analogue space. Also there is really no prime band kind of placement. With the increased number of channels on the digital platforms, channels are typically grouped by genre. With all this, we will see carriage fees being re- negotiated.

 

03. Are there areas where you think the government can still step and clear the mess?

I am not sure if there is a mess in the digitization proposal mandated by the government. This is a serious attempt by the government to shift the nation to digital and this is the only way to grow the industry and all the stakeholders in this ecosystem be it broadcasters, advertisers or the distributors among others. Everyone needs to work together at this important and historic juncture in time.

 

It is important that the rollout be implemented in time and as fast as possible to ease the perceived pain in implementing, as I said earlier, perhaps the first major step towards improving service levels and bringing in transparency and an element of fairness in this business.

 

I am sure that once the rollout starts, there will be many suggestions on how to improve the process and am sure that the government and the various stakeholders will be open to discussing such suggestions and sorting them out.

 

04.What’s your view on ratings? Should TAM be suspended in the early days of

digitization?

 

As we are aware, there is already pressure on TAM Media Research to suspend television ratings data on account of digitization rollout in the four metros. There is always resistance to change; in this case we hear that in such a situation the advertisers are concerned on the methodology that will be used by media planners and broadcasters in their pricing mechanisms due to lack of an alternate viewership metric.

 

It is a fact that the TAM (analogue home) sample size in these four metros is substantial. Therefore, there is bound to be inaccurate viewership data till such time TAM transitions totally in the digital markets. Till such time, using such inaccurate data will be rather unfair to all stakeholders. The other grouse is from the advertisers in that they would like to be cautious about spending large sums on advertising on television without any accurate data on the returns on such spends.

 

Again as I have said, all the stakeholders must take a call in this matter in the bigger interests of the industry and the consumer in particular. My own personal view is that no one should use inaccurate data.

 

05. Are industry bodies able to take care of the interests of small channels like yours?

 

I don’t think any industry body exists to take care of the smaller channels. Neither is there any industry body helping promote the growth of pro-social channels. Nor has the government built any mechanisms to support television channels, large or small; I feel it is high time the government came out with a plan to support media channels, especially if they are in the pro-social domain.

 

There is an urgent need to build a body akin to NASSCOM for the television industry in this country.

 

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