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FICCI Frames Day 3 : To Be or Not To Be

  • 10.07.2020
  • By Varun Ramdas
Creative First

“The basic approach of TRAI in regulation has been a light-touch one. We believe that the market is the best determinant of products and service”

-R.S. Sharma, Chairman, TRAI

FICCI-EY’s 2020 Report on the M&E sector states that the New Tariff Order increased end-customer prices for television content, reduced the reach of certain genres of channels and resulted in a 6% reduction in the time spent watching television. This session on “Regulating Creativity: Overcoming Legacy Challenges to Shape the Future of M&E”, brought together perspectives from office-bearers who regulate various aspects of the sector. Moderated by Mr. Vivek Couto, Executive Director & Co-Founder – Media Partners Asia, the session looked at the role of each regulator, whether these roles should evolve with technological developments and how successful regulation in the sector has been.

Regulatory roles:

Ajit Pai said that his role as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is to ensure swift and widespread adoption of the ATSC 3.0 TV broadcasting standards, the latest WiFi 6 technology and 5G.  He anticipates competition between new avatars of content such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Gaming and traditional content in the future. R.S. Sharma, Chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India stressed that India’s regulatory priorities revolve around optimal use of public resources and democratised content creation in the sector. Other areas of focus include ensuring an even playing field and the best available viewing experience to the consumer.

Atul K. Tiwari, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), said that his ministry is prepared for the discretionary expenditure that may happen post-Covid. He added that the MIB is in the middle of important decisions such as slashing license fees for wired broadband to Rs 1, releasing an AVGC Policy, and regulatory reform in TV and radio broadcasting. At the same time the I&B Ministry is collaborating with other departments/ministries on important issues such as the Champion sector scheme, infrastructure status and IP protection. Jyoti Jindgar Bhanot, Secretary (I/C) at the Competition Commission of India (CCI), distinguished the role played by her organisation. She said that the…

..regulatory approach to technology should appreciate how each technology changes market power and efficiencies in the sector and seek to sensitize the market on the rules of the game.

Light-touch or not:

The TRAI Chairman addressed criticisms levied against the NTO for being overly prescriptive. He responded that TRAI’s role is to protect consumer interest and ensure orderly growth. He added that the NTO regime repealed genre-wise price ceilings on channels and struck the right balance between consumer choice and sectoral health.

Mr. Pai said that for the FCC, light-touch means a relaxation of traditional regulatory structures and unshackling market players, allowing them to compete.

On his often criticised stance on net neutrality, Pai added that digital convergence warrants a transition from the model that pre-empted market failure and imposed controls towards a holistic view. Ms. Bhanot and Mr. Sharma  also expressed the view that preemptive regulation is unnecessary and that regulation should follow market failure.

Mr. Tiwari confirmed that discussions with VOD players on content regulation is progressing according to the mantra of light-touch regulation.

He added that industry players were given 100 days to come forward with a self-regulatory model for themselves. The I&B Ministry is looking at best practices on the issue he said.

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Regulation should be in harmony with the marketplace and facilitate integration with newer technology. Consumers should be the primary beneficiary of technological developments.
  2. The role of the I&B Ministry is to reduce disputes, create more jobs, facilitate the creation of world-class content and work in tandem with other institutions. The need for a specific regulator for the sector will be evaluated.
  3. From the perspective of competition, regulatory intervention should be proportionate and timely; seek to correct not disrupt.