#FF14 Day 1: Issues abound but collective stand will help boost industry morale

13 Mar,2014

By a correspondent


Starting off from where the inaugural session left, the session on ‘De-bottlenecking the regulatory hurdles’ on Day 1 of FICCI Frames 2014 saw the panelists touch upon grave issues facing the industry and how the government could play an integral role in allaying the fears of all the stakeholders concerned.


The panelists for the session comprised Bimal Julka, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd, Punit Goenka, CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, Rahul Johri, Sr VP & GM, South Asia, Discovery Networks and  Ajit Pai, Commissioner, FCC, USA. The session was moderated by Vikram Chandra, Group CEO, NDTV.


Taking the opportunity to open up, Uday Shankar began by saying that the regulatory scenario in India was very diverse in its approach with some sectors being over-regulated while the others were under-regulated. “Lack of clarity on the intent of a regulation is something that is of concern. It has to be aligned with goals that have been set by the society”, said Mr. Shankar. He went on to highlight other issues that needed industry attention including the 10+2 ad cap provision and also the just introduced aggregator policy for stakeholders.


Sudhanshu Vats presented a few indicators of his own as he said that there was a need to have a purpose to regulate. This, he said, could be achieved by having multiplicity of choice, have the need to operate like a free market and have adequate transparency and data. Adding further he said that the other essential needs were clarity, accountability and foresight.


Rahul Johri pitched in by saying that there was indeed a need to have clarity on where the industry was headed on the issue of regulation and finding out what the core objective is. “We have regulated ourselves very well but there are too many regulations being imposed right now and we need to find a way to tackle them systematically. The aim should be to regulate well for the future of India.”


Left to defend his turf, Shri Bimal Julka did a decent job of pacifying the panel as he said that it was a collaborative effort and that the responsibility rests with all stakeholders to get the job done. “Whatever the issues, we can agree in cohesion that it is the viewer towards whom our efforts have to be directed. Thus keeping such interests of the viewer in mind, the policies are framed with the intention of achieving inclusive growth,” he asserted.


On the several impending problems facing stakeholders, Shri Julka said that the focus by the government was to throw open the field for a healthy discussion amongst all players so that they could arrive at an amicable solution. Mr. Julka asserted that despite the problems the digitization exercise was showing positive results as well including the carriage fees reporting a downward slide and more transparency being bought into the system.


Mr Julka went on to add that the challenge would be to complete the phase 3 & 4 schedule of digitization and only after that could the issues of subscription versus carriage fee be resolved. But he cautioned that the stakeholders also had a role to play including deciding on how to make their content standout amongst a plethora of options facing the viewer.


Sudhanshu Vats went to the extent of saying that there was no need to have a licensing system except for the spectrum allocation and that even if there is a licensing system there needs to be a fixed timeframe to address that. He added that things will be clear once the entire digitization exercise is complete but prior to that it was important that the industry take a hard look on addressability factor of digitization.


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