TRAI chairman, I&B sec bat in favour of less regulation at CII Big Picture summit

MUMBAI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman RS Sharma and I&B secretary Amit Khare spoke in favour having less regulation for the TV and digital video segments at the CII Big Picture Summit.

TRAI chairman RS Sharma said that the regulator’s approach has been to facilitate growth and consumer interest and not to bring in too much regulations or to strangulate.

“We also don’t want to do too much fine-tuning…there may be certain aberrations… we try to sort them out but they are minor tweaking if at all it can be called that,” he said.

Sharma further stated that the quality of content in India should match international standards. “We don’t have to get our content created by someone outside. We should be able to generate our own content, and we have such a diverse society and culture that there is no dearth of content in this country,” he said.

He also called upon the industry to leverage the diversity of the country for creating interesting content. Good content, he stated, will be rewarded by customers.

Sharma noted that the new tariff order (NTO) has created a model that rewards quality content. “Quality content will have its own rewards, now that we have this model where the consumer will decide what they want to watch,” Sharma said.

He also stated that the NTO allows consumers to decide what they want to watch instead of producers or distributors pushing content. He also highlighted that the broadcast sector is a highly litigated industry. The NTO, he said, will bring in transparency and reduce disputes.

“In the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which looks at dispute settlement of the telecom and broadcasting sector, 90% of the cases related to broadcasting. It is highly litigated with disputes of all kinds ranging from disconnection to revenue and audit disputes. So, we said, how can we make things more transparent and put consumers in control,” Sharma said.

I&B secretary Amit Khare said that the government wants the over the top (OTT) industry to evolve a self-regulation model. “We’ve been in consultation with players in Mumbai and Chennai lately and are working towards a system of self-regulation for the OTT industry,” Khare said while speaking at the CII Big Picture Summit.

He further stated that regulation has to be in a manner where it can be properly implemented without an overdose of overt-regulation on common people. “Regulation has to be in a fashion where it can be properly implemented. Television is already in the self-regulatory mode. Similar self-regulation should be brought in OTT platforms,” he said.

Khare noted that the media and entertainment industry has predominantly been a private across television, films, and OTT offerings.

Viacom18 Group CEO and MD Sudhanshu Vats also urged the policy makers to have a lenient regulatory framework that allows the industry to achieve its full potential.

He likened over-regulation to over-parenting which has disastrous consequences for the industry. He also suggested that the middle path for the policymakers is to follow ‘free-range’ parenting.

“‘Overparenting’, like over-regulating makes it impossible to ‘cut the (umbilical) cord’. And there’s no way we can compete globally if we don’t cut the cord!

What is the alternative then? In the world of child psychology – it’s called ‘free-range’ parenting. The methodology behind this parenting style is to avoid hovering like a ‘helicopter parent’ by letting children experience life as it happens. That translates to less anxiety, less stifling behaviors, and less coddling. We need our policymakers to replicate a similar philosophy of regulation for us,” Vats stated.

Referrring to NTO, Vats stated that the new framework is the most landmark reform in the world of Indian Pay TV broadcasting. He added that the regulator should not tweak it every month and allow it to settle down.

“Of course, it’s not perfect – but tweaking it every month and quarter will have disastrous consequences. Maybe, in ‘free-range’ style, taking a break for say 2 years – and watching us closely – will be more beneficial for us in the long run,” he stated.

M&E sector, he said, provides direct & indirect employment to over 5 million Indians. It has the potential to go up to 10 million in 3-4 years. “Our export potential is 10 Bn USD -more than 10x of what it is today – and we don’t need exhaustive, difficult to negotiate multilateral agreements to get there. We just need freedom to create, connect and converge. This is totally in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of maximum governance and minimum government.”

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