[HCDX] Indian Broadcast industry awaits govt nod to key policies
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[HCDX] Indian Broadcast industry awaits govt nod to key policies


2009, the broadcast and cable industry will once again be looking at the government for a slew of policy initiatives in sectors like FM radio, cable distribution platforms and mobile TV, which otherwise remained stuck this year due to several reasons.

The expansion of conditional access system (CAS) across 55 cities and a clarity on the revenue-sharing formula with DTH firms are among the pending issues on which initiatives from the government may come in 2009, industry sources say.

2009 may also see the nod from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) to some of the 150-odd pending applications from broadcasters who are looking to launch more television channels.

Among the major policy initiatives that may get a push from the I&B ministry include approval to the third-phase expansion of private FM radio that will eventually see setting up of at least 500 new FM stations. The final recommendation in the matter has already been submitted to the I&B ministry by the broadcast regulator.

"Once the music royalty issue between FM radio firms and the music industry is sorted out, we expect the government to announce the third phase roll out of FM radio," a senior executive of a leading FM station said. So far, over 250 FM stations have come up across 91 cities.

On the cable front, some of the large cable companies like Digicable, Hathway, InCable and DEN, among others, are waiting for a clear policy on the new cable distribution platform called Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS). According to industry sources, the file on HITS has been waiting for the I&B ministry's nod for over six months now. "Currently, only Essel Group has the licence to operate HITS. A clear policy in the matter will open doors for other companies to seek HITS licence," said a source in the cable industry.

HITS enables a pan-India distribution of cable channels using a satellite, a technology similar to that of direct-to-home (DTH) operators. However, in HITS the end-users are the cable operators, while in DTH, the end-user is the consumer.

In 2009, the I&B ministry is also expected to clear its stand on the much-controversial expansion of CAS that has so far been limited to the select parts of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. "CAS expansion in 55 cities as recommended by Trai will be a tricky issue for the I&B ministry. Then there is a Delhi High Court order in the matter so CAS will remain a challenge for the government even in 2009," said a representative of MSO Alliance, the apex body of cable distribution firms who were successful in getting CAS enforced in January 2007.

In 2008, the major initiative taken by the I&B ministry was the policy announcement on Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) in September. According to the I&B ministry's statement, IPTV will open the doors for another mode of distribution of signals whereby 400 permitted satellite TV channels will get distributed through the telecom networks. 

© 2008 Business Standard
Jaisakthivel, Chennai, India

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