Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill 2011 Of India

Entertainment and media industry in India is witnessing an incredible growth rate. Indian government is also streamlining the legal frameworks that would help in the sustainable growth of media and entertainment industry in India.

Technological advances and the need to shift from analog spectrum to digital broadcasting by television broadcasters have put digital television (DTV) on a fast track. At the same time, development of digital television has necessitated balancing competing interests – those of content holders, and those of the consumer and technological industries.

Once the switch from analog to digital broadcasts is complete, analog TVs are incapable of receiving over-the-air broadcasts without the addition of a set-top converter box. Consequently, a digital-to-analog converter, an electronic device that connects to an analog television, must be used in order to allow the television to receive digital broadcasts.

However, this shift from analog to digital broadcasting in India is required to be done keeping in mind various techno legal aspects. Legal issues of entertainment and media industry of India are yet to be resolved especially the techno legal issues. This transition to digital television in India must be done in a systematic and techno legal manner.

Recently, Parliament of India gave its clearance for the initiating the digitisation step in the country. It passed the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill 2011 in this regard. The Bill will now go to the President for her assent before it is notified as an Act.

The consumer will now be free to choose the channels he/she wanted instead of being forced to accept the bouquets offered by the direct-to-home operators or multi-system operators. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been authorised under the Bill to fix the tariff for a-la-carte basis.

The drive will now allow multi-specialty operators and big DTH players to grab a larger pie of shares from local cable operators, who are reported to declare lower subscriber numbers and in turn revenues. Digitisation would also give a true assessment of the subscriber base of the broadcasters. Under the new regime, all satellite channels will be beamed to houses through set-top boxes. The government is also assuring cable operators that the proposed move would not harm them.

The measure is claimed to be a major step which would enable digitisation of the analog TV network and bring India on a par with other countries like US, Britain, Korea and Taiwan. The cable and satellite television industry is expected to be worth Rs.20,000 crore. Some contend that this legislation would end the fight for more TRPs among channels. The government would also stand to benefit as it would ensure proper tax collection. According to an estimate, carriage and placement fee contribute around 20 percent of the total cost of running a channel.

Indian media and entertainment industry may face the legal challenges of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) laws and cyber law of India. IPRs laws like copyright, trademark, etc may be frequently violated and occasionally invoked to redress IPRs violations of media and entertainment industry in India. Similarly, online IPRs issues like domain name disputes may also be agitated in the future. Similarly, media and entertainment industry must keep in mind the mandates like “cyber due diligence” and other provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000.

Media and entertainment industry will also face technological challenges in future. For instance, the issues pertaining to digital preservation of entertainment industry products may assume significance in future. All these issues require sound planning and actual implementation so that media and entertainment industry of India can grow.