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Rajat Sharma re-elected NBA president

MUMBAI: India TV editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma has been re-elected as president of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) at the eighth annual general meeting (AGM) of the association in New Delhi today.

rajatABP News Network CEO Ashok Venkatramani and News24 Broadcast India CMD Anurradha Prasad have been re-elected vice-president and treasurer respectively.

The remaining team of the NBA also remains unchanged as NDTV vice-chairman KVL Narayan Rao, TV Today Network CEO Ashish Bagga, Times Network MD and CEO MK Anand, Network18 Group CEO AP Parigi, Zee Media Corporation CEO Ashish Kirpal Pandit and Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. director MV Shreyams Kumar have also been re-elected as members.

Earlier, addressing NBA members in the annual report, Sharma said that the association had cordial relations with the government and Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley has committed to do all that is necessary to end the carriage fee cost.

The minister, he said, acknowledged that carriage fee is phenomenally high and affecting the newsgathering and, in turn, the quality of content aired by news channels.

Secondly, he is committed to finding an amicable solution with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in sorting out the 12-minute ad cap regulations, Sharma said in his message.

Elaborating on carriage fee, he said that the demand for exorbitant carriage fees by multi-system operators (MSOs) continues even in a digitised environment despite four metros and 38 cities having been digitised in Phases I and II.

Digitisation, which was assumed to be a game changer for the broadcasters, has not helped the sector in monetary terms, he said. News broadcasters have no option but to pay carriage fees as the “must carry provision” in the regulations mandates payment of carriage fees.

“Unless TRAI intervenes and abolishes carriage fee in any form, the news broadcasters will not be able to survive and most of them would face closure. We hope the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will take urgent action to stop this malaise which is crippling the news broadcasters,” he said, adding that payment of reasonable carriage fee should remain a burden for news broadcasters only until the digitisation process is completed.

On the issue of ad cap, Sharma hoped that TRAI would withdraw the regulations and leave it to the MIB to handle content-related issues since it does not have jurisdiction to cap advertisements.

He also lauded the government for taking cognisance of the NBA’s long-pending request by constituting the Empanelment Advisory Committee (EAC) to look into the issue of ‘fair pricing’ for government advertisements and empanelment-related issues.

“We are sure that the I&B ministry will look at the issues of ‘fair pricing’ objectively and correct the anomalies, which have been time and again brought to the notice of the ministry,” he stated.

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which is joint initiative of broadcasters, advertisers and media agencies, will be a game changer for the broadcast industry, he said. BARC had rolled out viewership data in April–May 2015.

On the issue of self-regulation, he said that the government should recognise the NBA Code of Ethics and the Redressal Regulations and make it part of the Programme Code under the Cable TV Rules as has been done in the case of ASCI to strengthen self-regulation.

He also urged news channels to vigorously pursue the independent regulatory model to avoid any government interference. “Under the leadership of Justice (Retd) RV Raveendran, Chairperson NBSA, the broadcasters have gained immensely in improving broadcasting standards,” Sharma added.