Indian broadcasters unite against TRAI’s new tariff order

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Leading Indian broadcasters from Star, ZEE, Sony, Viacom18, Discovery Communications, Turner International, ETC and TV Today Network, united against the New Tariff Order (NTO) by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in an event organised by the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF).

Taking to the stage together on Friday in Mumbai, the broadcasters voiced their apprehension against the NTO 2.0 and briefed the media on devastating repercussions the amendments are likely to impart on their businesses.

Questioning the need to change the NTO again, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO & MD, Viacom18 and Vice-President IBF said, “The objective of NTO 1 was first – to give choice to consumers, second – to bring transparency and third – to reduce litigation. While only the first two have happened, it’s too early to talk about the third. Statistically, overall 94% of Indians are aware of the NTO and the choices they have because of the efforts made by the broadcast industry collectively. The month on month churn in industry shows that people are continuously fine-tuning their choices. The other objective of NTO was transparency which it has also brought in. The question therefore, is “what is the fundamental need to change again? In my opinion there was no need.”

He further added, “India is a heterogenous country with different choices and abilities to pay. In every sector there is a wide spectrum and that needs to play out more in Indian media as well. This push for consistency shouldn’t come in the way of the industry’s and economy’s growth. In the M&E industry there is a lot of dynamism and flux and hence the broadcast sector needs to be able to settle down. If there has to be any change we need to allow for enough time for its implementation and also changes shouldn’t be suggested so frequently.”

Expressing his fear over the long-term impact of NTO 2.0, Uday Shankar, President of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and Chairman of Star India stated that it will affect the quality of content that in turn will choke the smaller channel and eventually force them to shut down their operations.

Megha Tata – MD, Discovery – South Asia said, “India is already the cheapest Cable TV market in the world and there is no evidence on market failure that requires TRAI to make a detrimental change to the TV Business.”

Differentiating Television content from essential commodities, Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, said, “Television is not Rice, Dal and Atta that the govt needs to regulate the broadcast business. We should be free to run our business as its not an essential commodity that needs any regulation.”

Highlighting the severity of the damage that the industry is likely to suffer, NP Singh, CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India said, “Arbitrary reduction of MRP cap from INR 19 to INR 12 applies to all genres are detrimental to the broadcast industry”. He also stressed on the fact that substantial amounts of money is being spent towards producing high-quality content that is increasing constantly.”

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