India: Digitisation in a hurry

Industry leaders at CASBAA’s “Addressable India 2010” meeting have united to urge the government to move rapidly towards the addressable digitalisation of India’s pay-TV industry.

Spearheaded by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), MSO Alliance, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), DTH Association of India, IPTV India Forum, Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) and CASBAA, the seven leading pay-TV Associations, representing 90 per cent of India’s television market, agreed on the need to create an environment that will stimulate investment — beneficial not only for industry stakeholders but for the government and consumers as well.

“This was the first time the industry has genuinely come together on a public platform and openly debated the most urgent issues facing our industry,” said Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of CASBAA.

“The most encouraging aspect of the meeting was the degree of consensus. Speakers from all sectors concurred that full digitalisation needs to come to India — and quickly. Where there is a real divergence of views is on the role of government – whether it needs to provide a guiding hand, or just reduce controls and get out of the way,” said Twiston Davies.

All participants agreed that addressable digitalisation, including broadband deployments, will enhance transparency, ensuring revenue flows, providing the basis for greater consumer choice, increasing the attractiveness of television to advertisers, and enhancing the government’s ability to collect taxes.

TRAI Chairman Sarma declared himself to be “a man in a hurry” and urged action in a “not very long” timeframe.  “If we decide what is good for us,” said Sarma, “we should do it.”

He also announced a proposed government investment in a $13.3 billion nationwide fibre optic network, which could provide a backbone for digitalisation by 2013.  Noting that the private sector should continue to provide “last-mile” consumer service, he called for tax incentives to help the industry make the huge investments necessary.

The participants also called on the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Finance to play a pro-active role in reducing the financial burden on the industry. Several urged government to reduce its regulatory controls and “let consumers decide” now that growth of the DTH industry had brought real competition to the vast majority of Indian cable TV homes.

Maintenance of rigid price controls and “commodity” content rules remain significant hurdles to industry development,” added Twiston Davies.

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