The average growth in the TV segment sector has been 38 per cent. Naturally the broadcasters want a greater share of the cable pie and local cable operators are unwilling to give in easily to demands of full declaration when no broadcaster is willing to reveal his cost of acquisition of content or operating costs and when the whole trp audience rating issue has become tainted with controversy. In the past two years broadcasters and multi-system cable operators have resorted to bitter litigation on various issues and inevitably settled out of court.Broadcasters have had to face flak from advertisers for not providing assured connectivity. Cable operators have had to face wrath of consumers for blank screens.
Now the government has accepted the Rakesh Mohan task force report on introduction of a
conditional access system for pay channels. This mandates that all pay channels would be available only through a set top box to provide the consumer the choice of viewing and an option to pay for what he chooses to watch. Free-to-air channels would continue to be available through present receivers at an’ affordable price’ to be determined by the government.
The government has to chart the road ahead once conditional access becomes mandatory. Government has to continue to take a proactive consumer stance by taking the following additional measures immediately:
1) Ensuring a three-phase roll out to cover metros in the next six months, mini metros in the next 12 months and the entire country in 18 months.
2) To ensure easy acceptability of set top boxes and subscriber management systems for cable operators all duties including central/state and local levies be waived for a period of three years.
3) As government has decided to fix a maximum retail price for free-to-air channels, it should also freeze all current pay channel rates till deployment of set top boxes is actually in place. Thereafter the broadcasters would have to persuade customers to subscribe to their channels both in terms of attractive content and pricing.
4) As the Convergence Bill is still being scrutinised by a standing committee of Parliament, an interim arrangement to settle all disputes in the TV segment between broadcasters, cable operators and consumers may be considered by enlarging the function of the Telecom Regulatory Authority.