Archive for June, 2006

FM Phase II: Syntech Informatics in, PCM case still hangs with the I&B Ministry

June 28, 2006

Syntech Informatics Pvt Ltd, the FM license holder from the North-East, which was facing disqualification for failing to comply with the CTI deadline, has signed the CTI agreement with BECIL after the I&B Ministry permitted it for the same. However, Ministry sources said that the appeal of the other player from the North-East, PCM Cement Concrete Pvt Ltd, which is also facing disqualification for the same reason, is under consideration.

As reported earlier by exchange4media, both Syntech and PCM were facing disqualification for failing to sign the Common Technical Infrastructure (CTI) agreement with Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (BEC IL). BECIL is a Government of India enterprise, which is authorised to set up the common infrastructure at various cities in which license for new FM radio stations have been issued.

Both the license-holders had failed to comply with the April 29, 2006 deadline for the Eastern Zone to sign CTI agreement with BECIL. PCM has the FM licenses for Siliguri and Gangtok, while Syntech has won the license for Gangtok.

Syntech Informatics had appealed to the Ministry to be granted some more time, holding that its bank loan process got delayed due to the Assembly elections in Assam.

Source: exchange4media


NDTV Profit gets a makeover

June 28, 2006

NDTV’s business news channel, NDTV Profit, has been revamped to make it more contemporary and appealing to its viewers. The new look will help the channel to blend and present Indian as well as international news in an interesting manner.

The makeover was a result of the viewers’ growing need for useful information while trading, investing and looking at alternative options. It will bring to the viewers the pulse of the world markets and news from India, making the channel more balanced.

The changes in look include elements such as a silver grey background with text in vibrant colours to attract the viewers. Super brands will be made to look sleeker and will take less space on the screen. All this, the channel believes, will make it look more visually enriching.

What prompted this change in the appearance of the channel which is still very young? Shivnath Thukral, executive editor, NDTV Profit, explains, “There is a need to present information in a pleasing and digestible manner and, more importantly, with a more balanced perspective than in yesteryears.”

Thukral says that the new look has been designed on the basis of feedback the channel received from its viewers. The viewers’ information needs, too, are constantly evolving, he says.

NDTV Profit has been around for more than a year now and has been positioned as a channel that leads with information on the stock markets, business and economy, to give its viewers ‘news they can use’.

Source: agencyfaqs!

‘Radio will strengthen through accurate measurement and engaging content ‘

June 28, 2006

The advent of FM a few years has given the good old radio a new lease of life. The medium, which was losing out to television and the Internet, is staging a comeback, and with the second phase if FM expansion, we can look forward to over 300 FM stations in India.

What’s more, industry players believe that radio has always been and will continue to be a strong medium that connects with the listeners like no other medium. We all know of the benefits that radio offers – interactivity, close connect with listeners, constant companion for those on the move, and an exclusive platform for ones’ message. But there are challenges too – how will radio be considered and used as a mainstream medium by advertisers? Will radio effectively compete with the Internet and TV? How can a radio station stand out when they all sound the same? How does one measure the radio’s performance?

Today, the challenge for Radio lies in changing the way advertisers perceive the medium. Commenting on the radio as an effective medium, Pushpinder Singh, Founder, Saints and Warriors, said, “TV is the medium now, but radio has touched India before and it is certainly getting stronger again.” Singh, however, agreed that radio stations could only get stronger by connecting with their listeners on a local level and differentiate themselves from the other radio stations.

Sugato Gupta, Head, Marketing, Marico, said that if the radio had to get advertisers’ support, then the medium would need to be measured accurately. This is what will tip the scales in radio’s favour and brand managers will consider it as a lead medium rather than a medium for micro marketing.

India still has to catch up with radio audience measurement techniques that are already popular worldwide. Some of these measurements include telephone recall, co-incidental, the diary system, personal interview and electronic meter.

According to Mark Neely, Regional Director, Radio, Asia Pacific, Nielsen Media Research, Watch Meter (WM) was a new technology that could accurately measure different media consumption habits of consumers across mediums like Radio, Print, Outdoor and TV.

Developed in Switzerland, WM is like a wearable watch with a standard memory chip that catches signals whenever a respondent tunes in to the radio. The WM is also accurate since it records six times in a minute, thereby recording only the amount of time that people actually listen to the radio or consume any other medium.

Neely stressed that electronic measurements like WM would go a long way in accurately measuring radio consumption patterns, but at the same time added that marketers should also consider a station’s characteristics and who it catered to. Accurate measurement methods combined with engaging content will get the radio the recognition that it deserves.

Source: exchange4media

Adlabs bids for 3 studios in Film City

June 28, 2006

MUMBAI: Anil Ambani-controlled Adlabs Films has submitted a bid for setting up three film studios at Film City in Mumbai’s Goregaon suburb.

“Film City had come out with a tender. We have submitted our bid and are confident of bagging it,” says Adlbas Films chairman and managing director Manmohan Shetty.

The plan is to make studios which would match the quality of Hollywood with shooting floors, editing and processing facilities.

Adlabs runs a chain of multiplexes and is engaged in the business of film production, processing and editing. After Ambani took a controlling stake, the company has also ventured into film distribution to spread its presence across the entire value chain.

Film City has received nine bids for the Rs 30 crore project, according to a report which quoted managing director Bhushan Gagrani.

In the 90s, Film City harboured the dream of setting up three studios but had to shelve the project due to lack of financial resources. Pressed by a fast-growing film and television industry, the decision to revive the project was taken recently under the build-operate-own-transfer model. The bidder who offers to transfer the assets in the shortest period will be awarded the contract.


Mobile Televison: The next big thing

June 28, 2006

SINGAPORE: While the rain Gods are showering upon the city of Singapore, there is an onslaught of discussions on the new technologies for broadcasting at the Broadcast Asia Summit 2006 being held in Expo City.

With a full house on a Monday morning, professionals from various media companies from Asia and elsewhere are lapping up all that there is to.

What with the revenue expectations for mobile TV globally pegged at $ 682 million within the next five years, broadcasters in the space are raring to go! Its popularity in the markets where it has been rolled out, will definitely help broadcasters meet that mark if not more.

The two morning sessions saw discussions and presentations on Asian digital cinema and also an update on delivering mobile television to handheld devices. The latter provided an international review and update on mobile television and an overview of the technology and services being offered across various countries like Italy, Japan, Korea, the UK and the US.

Consumers have reacted favourably to mobile television in the markets where the services have been launched. Close to 76 per cent consumers in the UK are willing to pay for mobile TV. On the other hand, consumers in Finland and France are willing to shell out € 10 and € 7 respectively per month for mobile TV.

In turn, what consumers want is good picture and sound quality, value for money, right selection of channels, service availability, simplicity of use and a multimedia device.

The speakers for the session comprised Broadcast Australia broadcast services director Clive Morton, Kobeta Korea manager of planning team Hyun Ho, Qualcomm MediaFLO director of international business development Jeffrey Brown, TBS Japan development manager Hidefumi Yasuda, Nokia director of strategy Juha Lipiainen, TeamCast France executive director Gerard Faria and Enenys France president and CEO Regis Le Roux.

While the service is gaining popularity, there seems to be ambiguity in terms of the regulations required for the same. Should the broadcaster be the ultimate content regulator for mobile TV or should it be the telecommunications company? That is one area where not much progress has been made. Brown said, “The spectrum regulation for mobile television services is fragmented per country per industry. It isn’t clear still whether the broadcasting authority or the telecommunications authority is responsible for regulating content. But the transition is slowly happening as the industry is understanding the value of mobile television.”

Interestingly, while the number one telecommunications company in Korea S K Telecom accepted and adopted this new technology easily, there was resistance from KTF and LG Telecom, who were reluctant to offer mobile television technology – T-DMB – on their mobile devices.

The reason behind this was that since mobile television was being offered free, consumers would watch more television on their handhelds and in turn use less of SMS and internet services, which in turn would mean a significant revenue loss for them. However, these two companies had to eventually succumb to the popularity of mobile television and started offering the technology on their devices late last year.

The requirements for a mobile TV device are:

*Watch up to four hours TV

*Large anti glare screen

*Simple to operate TV

*Recording capability

*Always up to date Electronic Service Guide

*Camera and camcorder to record own content

*Consumers use mobile television mostly to pass time, for example, while waiting for something. They also use it to stay updated with news, to relax or entertain oneself, as a background entertainment while doing other things, to create their own space ( e.g. in public transportation) or as a second TV while the household’s TV is used by others.

The top three usage situations among active users of mobile TV are:

*When traveling using transportation

*When at home

*When at work

According to Brown, the potential mobile TV users globally in 2008 – 2010 will be in the range of 100 – 200 million. As per a research done by Nokia in major cities in 32 countries, it was found that by end 2005, there were two billion mobile phone subscribers globally and is expected to reach three billion by end 2009. While there were 735 million mobile phones sold in 2005, the projections for 2009 are 944 million.

So does mobile TV have future potential? Yes, but assuming that the pricing and content are in line with consumers’ expectations and needs.


Sharp LCD TV sales cross 10 m

June 28, 2006

The $25-billion Sharp Corporation of Japan has crossed the 10-million mark in worldwide sales of its Aquos LCD Televisions, claims a press release from the company. Introduced in 2001, the LCD television brand of Sharp reached the landmark this month. Sharp Corporation, through its subsidiary Sharp India Ltd, has launched the Aquos range of LCD televisions in India too, says a press release from the company, quoting Mr Prasun Banerjee, Vice-President, Marketing, Sharp India Ltd.

Sharp’s LCD panels are manufactured at the company’s facility in Kameyama, Japan. The company is scheduled open a second plant by autumn of this year in Kameyama. According to the press release, this second plant will allow Sharp to meet the growing worldwide demand, especially for big-screen LCD televisions. Sharp is targeting the Indian market with its new line-up.

Its product line in India includes LCD TVs, CTVs, refrigerators, air-conditioners and microwave ovens. On the anvil in the next few months are DVDs, washing machines and home theatre systems. The company previously was a joint venture with the Kalyani Group and in April 2005 became a listed company with the Japanese parent buying back 80 per cent stake in the company.

Source: businessline

Broadcast bill ready; scheduled to be tabled in Monsoon Session of Parliament

June 28, 2006

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: After many years of meandering on the margins since 1997, the information and broadcasting ministry is ready with a final draft of the broadcast bill 2006, which can turn out to be controversial and stringent at the same time.

The recommendations that have been proposed in the bill, if they finally become law, are bound to have seismic repercussions in the industry, including mandating a certain percentage of locally produced content by private TV and radio broadcasters.

The draft bill, which calls for the setting up of a separate Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India, has covered four major areas in its ambit,which would call for major corporate restructuring by media companies, foreign and domestic, operating in India.

These include content, cross media ownership, subscriptions and live sports feeds, which are part of the downlink norms.

Some of the key recommendations as per the draft bill:

* The bill introduces restrictions on cross media holdings in all electronic ventures capping it a maximum 20 per cent. While print media companies have not been included in the ambit of the bill for the present, this could be later extended to them as well.

On restrictions on accumulation of interest, the draft bill states, “The Central government shall have the authority to prescribe such eligibility conditions and condition with regard to accumulation of interest in the print and broadcast segments as may be considered necessary from time to time to prevent monopolies across different t segments of the media.”

What this means is that a broadcaster like Star, for instance, can have a maximum 20 per cent stake in an FM radio venture or a multi system operator.

The immediate fallout of such a bill becoming law would be that Star, which has a 26 per cent holding in the Rajan Raheja-promoted Hathway Cable & Datacom MSO, would have to bring down its stake by 6 per cent.

It seems that the demerger that took place in Zee Telefilms could prove to be beneficial for the company. Down South, the Sun TV group would also have to restrict its interest in cable distribution companies like Sumangli.

In this regard, the draft bill states, “No broadcasting network service provider and its associated companies shall have more than 20 per cent share of paid up equity or have any other financing or commercial arrangement that may give it management control over the financial, management or editorial policies of any other broadcasting network service provider…”

* No broadcasting service provider (television company) can hold more than 20 per cent equity in another TV company. Additionally, no TV company can own more than 15 per cent of the total number of television channels beaming in the country.

“No content broadcasting service provider shall have more than the prescribed share of the total number of channels in a city or state, subject to overall ceiling of 15 pr cent for the whole country,” the draft states.

* A broadcast network service provider (presumably multi system operator / cable operator) cannot have more than 15 per cent of the national average in regards to subscriber numbers.

What this means, at the moment as explanatory annexure are not available, is that if 60 million is the C&S national subscriber average, an MSO like Zee group’s SitiCable or the Hinduja-owned INCablenet or Sumangli, for example, cannot exceed 9 million paid subscribers in a city or a state.

“No broadcasting network service provider shall have more than the prescribed of the total number of consumer/subscribers in city or a state subject to the overall ceiling of 15 per cent for the whole country,” the draft bill states.

* TV channels on a mandatory basis would have to have a certain prescribed percentage of content produced locally and also carry socially relevant programmes.

“The share of content produced in India shall not be less than 15 per cent of the total content of a channel broadcast during every week,” the draft bill states.

It also goes on to state that the share of public service/socially relevant programme content shall not be less than 10 per cent of the total programme content of a channel broadcast during every week.

This would mean that channels like Cartoon Network, Animax, Discovery, Animal Planet and Discovery Travel and Living would have to have a prescribed percentage of content generated from India, which has been a long-standing demand of Indian animators.

* Existing laws and guidelines relating to broadcasting, TV and radio, would subsume under this over-arching regulatory framework.

This would mean that laws and guidelines relating to FM radio, DTH, community radio, uplink and downlink of channels and use of SNG/DSNG infrastructure would cease to exist and assimilate with the broadcast law.

The Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill 2006 is presently being circulated among members of the Union Cabinet. Depending on the Cabinet direction, the bill is scheduled to be tabled during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

TV and cable companies refused to comment on the draft proposals today, saying they are yet to see the government paper, which needs to be studied in detail.


Digital broadcasting set to transform communication landscape by 2015: RRC-06

June 28, 2006

MUMBAI: The conclusion of ITU’s Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC-06) in Geneva saw the signing of a treaty agreement that is a major step in implementing World Summit on the Information Society objectives. The digitalization of broadcasting in Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran by 2015 represents a major landmark towards establishing a more equitable, just and people-centred Information Society.

The agreement will herald the development of ‘all-digital’ terrestrial broadcast services for sound and television. The digital switchover will leapfrog existing technologies to connect the unconnected in underserved and remote communities and close the digital divide.

“The most important achievement of the Conference,” remarked ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi, “is that the new digital Plan provides not only new possibilities for structured development of digital terrestrial broadcasting but also sufficient flexibilities for adaptation to the changing telecommunication environment.”

The Regional Radiocommunication Conference was chaired and brought to a conclusion by Kavouss Arasteh of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The agreement reached at RRC-06 paves the way for utilizing the full potential of information and communication technologies to achieve the internationally recognized development goals. The date of transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting in the year 2015 is intended to coincide with the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals.

The regional agreement for digital services has been reached in the frequency bands 174 – 230 MHz and 470 – 862 MHz. It marks the beginning of the end of analogue broadcasting.

The Conference agreed that the transition period from analogue to digital broadcasting, which begins at 0001 UTC 17 June 2006, should end on 17 June 2015, but some countries preferred an additional five-year extension for the VHF band (174-230 MHz).

The digital dividend

The switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting will create new distribution networks and expand the potential for wireless innovation and services. The digital dividend accruing from efficiencies in spectrum usage will allow more channels to be carried across fewer airwaves and lead to greater convergence of services.

The inherent flexibility offered by digital terrestrial broadcasting will support mobile reception of video, internet and multimedia data, making applications, services and information accessible and usable anywhere and at any time. It opens the door to new innovations such as Handheld TV Broadcast (DVB-H) along with High-Definition Television (HDTV) while providing greater bandwidth to existing mobile, fixed and radionavigation services. Services ancillary to broadcasting (wireless microphones, talk back links) are also planned on a national basis and need to be extended.

The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), which will meet in the autumn of 2007, will deal with the regulatory aspects of the usage of the spectrum for these services.

Terrestrial digital broadcasting carries many advantages over the analogue system:

Expanded services

Higher quality video and audio

Greater variety and faster rates of data transmission

Consistency of data flows over long distances

More spectrum efficiency means more channels

This agreement, which paves the way for a new paradigm of wireless digital communication technologies, is expected to be extrapolated by other regions and countries and influence a global shift away from the analogue system that has been in place for the past 45 years.

During the five weeks of deliberations which began on 15 May, RRC-06 took decisions to allow iteration of the complex software tools used by the ITU secretariat as a basis to generate the draft plan that will facilitate the coordinated and timely introduction of digital broadcasting. The Plan assures that an outstanding 70’500 digital broadcasting requirements, including stations, will become a reality within the planned area. It succeeded in creating a level playing field as a new basis for competition.

The first session of this Conference (RRC-04) took place in May 2004 and established a solid, comprehensive and technical basis for the agreement, including the framework for the intersessional studies. It has already resulted in the accelerated introduction of digital terrestrial broadcasting in many countries. “Digital technologies are now transmitting high-resolution images of the Soccer World Cup from Germany to fans around the world who are watching the matches with excitement,” said Utsumi. “Digital terrestrial broadcasting is now a reality with a bright future.”

A complex process

Conference chairman Arasteh said that RRC-06 was a technically complex process comprising voluminous computational calculations and data processing tasks, electronic document handling and the use of five working languages. He added that ITU, although facing these challenges for the first time, could provide the Conference with adequate technical and regulatory expertise and support for the full satisfaction of the participating delegations.

More than 1000 delegates representing 104 countries met in Geneva to adopt the treaty agreement that will replace the analogue broadcasting plans existing since 1961 for Europe and since 1989 for Africa. The new digital Plan, based on broadcasting standards known as T-DAB (for sound) and DVB-T (for TV), covers a wide area of the world including Europe, countries of the CIS, Africa, Middle East and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

A major challenge faced by the conference was to find ways for digital and analogue broadcasting to co-exist on the radio-frequency spectrum during the transition period without causing interference.

Cooperation with EBU and CERN

A key ingredient for the success of the Conference was the unprecedented level of cooperation between ITU, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

The complex planning activities conducted at this conference and during the intersessional period were based on the software developed by EBU, which includes hundreds of thousands of programme lines. In preparing the Plan for digital terrestrial broadcasting, ITU experts performed meticulous calculations within a limited timeframe using two independent infrastructures: the ITU distributed system with 100 PCs and the CERN Grid infrastructure that is based on a few hundred dedicated CPUs from several European institutions.


Hathway ready for the digital big fight

June 28, 2006

Chief executive K Jayaraman is setting the tone for Hathway Cable & Datacom’s duel in the digital era. Part of his aggressive ploy is to expand the network in newer markets through alliances with cable operators. His proposal to them: Hathway will invest and build the digital and broadband side of the business while allowing cable operators to retain earnings from their analogue operations and carriage fees.

Jayaraman believes this will carry appeal to cable operators who do not have the financial resources to fight off competition from digital delivery platforms like direct-to-home (DTH). He is setting up a team to map out the growth potential in non Hathway areas.

Jayaraman is also taking the acquisition route to widen Hathway’s footprint. Local cable networks in Chandigarh, Mohali and Kanpur were gobbled up early this year to gain foothold in new territories, all northern prosperous markets where digital cable and broadband have potential to take off.

Such buyouts, though, will be selective and limited. But coming after years of inaction, Hathway sees an opportunity in growing along with the digital market. “Competition from DTH is good as it will change the way cable TV has been functioning and open up the digital market. If cable TV can respond positively, it will increase our ARPU’s (average revenue per user) and correct our business models,” says Jayaraman.

Competition also means that Hathway will have to protect its own turf as DTH gets aggressive with full content and more service providers. With Tata Sky preparing for launch soon and Subhash Chandra’s Dish TV recently sewing a deal with SET-Discovery for a whole host of channels including Sony TV, Max, Discovery and Ten Sports, the writing is on the wall: cable will have to move in fast to migrate its customers from analogue to digital.

Jayaraman’s initial task is to defend Hathway’s direct points and the creamy customers of the local cable operators. “We will have to persuade our direct customers and the top-end subscribers of our local cable operators to opt for digital cable as they will form the main target for DTH service providers,” he says.

So far, that has been an agonisingly slow process. Hathway has managed to deploy just under 50,000 digital set-top boxes (STBs), mainly in its direct points. The distribution chain has not been supportive and, as Jayaraman says, only one-fifth of the last mile operators (LMOs) have been co-operative.

For energising the chain, Hathway is giving operators Rs 400 per digital STB. And on niche content, the multi-system operator (MSO) parts with a 50 per cent share on margins. Besides, operators who buy STBs on bulk are given discounts. “At the retail level, the LMOs will have to figure out what they want. It is in their interest to protect their networks,” says Jayaraman.

But how does Hathway woo customers and make them switch from analogue to digital? One way is to offer bundled packages along with the cable internet services. The idea is to lock in customers with ARPUs over a longer period while driving sales of digital STBs.

There are various schemes launched over a month-long period. Internet subscribers who have been sitting with Hathway for two years will be given the digital box free to use for a year. They will also have the option to buy the box for Rs 500 (box costs Rs 3375) but have to remain as Hathway’s internet customer for the whole year.

Boxes are available at Rs 1,000 for one-year-old customers. And for an existing internet subscriber who has not completed a year, the box is sold at Rs 2750 while Globus (retail store) coupon of Rs 500 is given along with a 20 per cent discount on Onkyo Home Theatres. New internet customers who subscribe to a minimum period of six months will have the option to buy the box for Rs 1000.

“We have started all these initiatives for the last one month. We are rewarding our customers for their loyalty while locking them for a longer period. We feel bundling will help as DTH can’t ptovide such services. We are in a unique position compared to the other MSOs as we have a substantial broadband subscriber base,” says Jayaraman.

Hathway is backing up the price incentives with a dose of marketing, unprecedented in the Indian cable TV industry. Discount coupons, roadshows, FM radio stations, hoardings, interactive contests – all these media vehicles are being used to promote digital cable. And it has a staff of 70 people on sales and customer support for the digital services. “Our monthly ad spend is Rs 800000-100000. We are now selling 5,000 boxes a month which is still low, but there has been an improvement in offtake,” says Jayaraman.

Tieing up with companies for discounts and co-branding is another exercise Hathway has started. “We are going to tie up with Citibank for a co-branded credit card which we will offer to our internet customers. For our digital cable, we are in talks with Onida for discount offers,” says Jayaraman.

Lining up premium content is not a focus area. Hathway, though, has launched an ad-free dial-up interactive music channel I-TV through its digital services. The channel, which is currently available in Mumbai and Pune, will also be taken to other cities. Hathway has also introduced gaming on its digital services last month, for which it has selected NDS technology.

Expanding the digital services to new cities is also part of Jayaraman’s plans. After launching in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, Punjab will be the next stop.

Hathway is creating another arsenal for its fight against DTH. Plans are on to launch VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services by the end of the fiscal. Having built a two-way infrastructure for broadband, this is a natural progression for the MSO. “We had tested for analogue telephony with Bharti but feel VoIP is a better route for us. VoIP test is going on in Mumbai. We plan to launch at least in two cities this fiscal. We can bundle cable TV, broadband and VoIP services to customers which will add to our revenue streams,” says Jayaraman.

As the digital platforms gather force, nobody knows who will win the big fight. But, as Jayaraman says, cable will have to develop a well-rounded revenue stream if it has to survive the race.


Broadcast Bill still has minefields to clear before becoming law

June 28, 2006

So the government again renews its long-in-the-trying attempt to get broadcast regulation in place. Is it just us or is this feeling of déjà vu that it may be another exercise in futility shared by the industry as well?

Still, that doesn’t take away the importance of having a comprehensive legislation for the sector that is estimated to be worth Rs 427 billion in 2010 according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report presented at this year’s Ficci Frames convention.

The Broadcasting Bill has been dangling on an uncertain thread for close to a decade now. Several information and broadcasting (I&B) ministers in several governments, who have tried to maneuver it past the corridors of the houses of Parliament and into law, have come and gone. All have failed; none have had the drive to push it through. It has proved to be an untouchable piece of legislation; a hot potato that is dropped every time an effort is made.

Another attempt is being made to enact the covered-with-dust Bill. A draft has been prepared for the Union Cabinet’s persual and initial indications are that it is going to impact almost everyone in the broadcasting food chain. It is slated to be introduced in Parliament during the Monsoon session by not-even-a-year-in-the-seat I&B minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi.

I&B ministry secretary SK Arora has been working for a long time on putting together the document. Help has been sought from several quarters while drafting the Bill: the US FCC, Casbaa in Hong Kong, other consultants, consumer groups and interested parties.

The Bill tries to address the issue of encouraging domestic originating content on TV channels by mandating a 15 per cent share for it. Then it caps cross media ownership at 20 per cent, and even share of voice for a TV channel or cable TV network nationally at 15 per cent. A Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India (Brai) is to be set up (have we not heard this one before?), which will monitor the content on TV channels and oversee the broadcast industry in all its aspects the same way as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India does in the telecom sector.

The first piece of legislation is more than welcome and should in the medium to long term give a boost to local TV production and more so animation. Of course, it goes without saying that it is in the interest of local broadcasters to create local content that appeals to audiences and there’s no running away from it if they are seeking to make money out of the market. That they have so largely shied away from doing so, may be part of their business plan. There will be some bickering about this by some of the players.

Of course, the government will have to specify whether the 15 per cent content cap relates to fresh domestic prime time content or to recycled content. Remember some broadcasters might buy garbage worthy shows dirt cheap and put them on air late at night in order to fulfil the legislative norms.

Additionally, a transition period will have to be specified so that the domestic production industry gears up to deliver the quality animation and programming that is demanded internationally, so that international broadcasters can – if they want – buy worldwide rights.

On the whole, over time the 15 per cent imposition could well catapult TV documentary makers and animation studios into the next level. Though some argue that the cap should be higher, it is a good start.

That is just the soft part of the Bill though. Trying to control share of voice and restricting cross media ownership are two clauses that are arguably going to get the entire Bill stuck in a quagmire; lot of it political. Reason: hectic lobbying is going to commence to do away with them. It is these clauses which in the past have prevented the Bill from becoming a law. And, it is quite likely to do the same once again.

No broadcaster or cable TV operator is going to cede power and control they have acquired over the years they have been operating in India. Many of their business models are based on this power.

The setting up of Brai is another moot point. It’s about time a content watchdog was set up. The other option is that the industry kowtows to a xenophobic government’s every content concern and censorship demand.

Additionally, the draft Bill fails to clearly address broadcasting in a converged era to hand held devices and mobile phones.

A key question everyone is asking: will the Bill go through this time? It looks unlikely to have an easy ride and, in all probability, will be knocked into another shape and form. Or, it may end up being still born. Its passage will depend on how much pressure the I&B mandarins — and the Congress-led coalition government — are willing to withstand not only from the Opposition, but also allies, some of whose sympathisers have big media dreams in East and South India.