Q] As per MIB’s latest statistical handbook that you released a few weeks ago, Television’s revenue growth has slowed down in FY22. As per projections, it would be one of the slowest-growing mediums in the next two years at 3.9%. Are you concerned about it?
TV revenue is not growing at the pace it used to, but nevertheless, it is still growing. Advertising is growing more on the Digital side, but it doesn’t mean that TV revenue is not growing. Content creation on the news side continues to grow on TV. India has a lot of potential and people are watching both TV and OTT. Historically, some sectors go up, and some go down, and to retain people’s interest, even GECs are innovating on content and have come up with reality shows.
Q] How many new TV channel applications have you received so far this year? As per MIB data, only 7 new channels were launched in FY23, while 20 were shut down in the two years before that.
I don’t have the exact numbers, as applications keep coming in. Besides, we have come out with new guidelines which include increasing the minimum net worth requirement to open a news and current affairs channel from Rs 2 cr. to Rs 20 cr. For non-news channels, it was hiked to Rs 5 cr. The network cap was never revised after 2004.
Q] Don’t you think it may impact the government’s revenue as well?
We feel that only serious players should be there. There are over 350 news channels in the country and 950 satellite channels. But how many channels can you name?
Q] There were speculations that the government may put a stay on TRPs of news channels before elections if they continue to show provocative content. Any comments?
As of now, there is no such plan. BARC has started sharing Raw Level Data (RLD) with channels now. Earlier, news channels were complaining about lack of data and lack of transparency. The objective is to bring transparency and allow channels to track wrong algorithms or manipulations, if any, and then BARC can correct it. Now, they are complaining that data is voluminous and can’t be interpreted. They have to try to make sense of it.
Q] Are you satisfied with the functioning of BARC?
India is a diverse country with so many languages, and rural-urban and economic divides. There are just 55,000 panel homes, but only a part of the population consumes news. Hence, the margin of error becomes big.
We don’t receive complaints from the General Entertainment Channels (GECs), which are the largest chunk in terms of revenue. The issues are largely raised by new channels.
Q] What could be the reasons behind their complaints against BARC measurement?
There are 55,000 panel homes. Among them, households that consume news would be around 5,000-7,000. English news consumption would be further limited to around 500 homes. So even a small error that creeps in, can be multiplied and magnified due to such a small sample size.
Q] What is the way out? Does MIB have any plans to intervene in the matter?
News channels are divided on this matter, there is no unanimity. BARC is an industry-led body where both broadcasters and advertisers are present. The government has no role to play here, so the council has to manage on its own.
Q] The Indian Broadcasters and Digital Foundation (IBDF) has requested TRAI to deregulate the broadcasting sector and remove the price cap, which faces dwindling paid subscriber count and competition from DD Free Dish and OTT platforms. What is the MIB’s stand on this?
As a regulator, TRAI has to look after the interest of both subscribers and broadcasters, and it has taken note of the scenario. TRAI modifies regulations every two years, so while NTO 1 (New Tariff Order) and NTO 2.0 were implemented in the past, NTO 3.0 is now being implemented effectively. There is no issue from the customer’s side, and not much is there on the broadcaster’s side as well.
Q] Are some directives on the cards for the news broadcasting ad industry ahead of elections?
Why should we issue any directive on elections? For us, the only issue is fake news. News channels are supposed to follow the code of conduct all the time, and as long as people conform to the code of conduct, no new directive is required.
Q] That is still not the case. Many news channels are accused of running fake news, the Israel and Palestine war is the latest example.
We have blocked 200 news channels over the past year that were peddling fake news and misinformation. Many of them were YouTube channels with crores of subscribers. Some of them were Pakistan-based, and some were based in Canada, run by by Khalistan supporters.
Q] It’s been more than a year since the big four broadcasters pulled out their FTA channels from DD FreeDish. How has it impacted DD FreeDish revenue?
On the contrary, DD Freedish revenue has gone up to Rs 1050 cr., which is 30-40 percent more than the previous year’s when it was Rs 750 cr. News channels that are on Freedish are giving more revenue this year.
Q] At the time when things are going Digital, what lies ahead for DD in the future? When will DD launch its own OTT platform?
We are working to develop an OTT platform. DD and AIR have a lot of archival material which nobody else has. Until the 90s, there were no private channels, and speeches, discussions, interviews, and performances of iconic artists like MS Subulakshmi, Bhim Sen Joshi and Bade Ghulam Ali, and even TV serials are lying in our archives.
Now, people want to consume everything on OTT because it’s so convenient. Although a lot of our content is available on YouTube, its cataloguing makes it difficult for people to search. If we have our OTT channel, people will have easy access to our rich content.
Q] Will DD’s OTT be for free? Will it be launched before the elections?
It is likely to be launched next year. There may be a small subscription fee, but things are yet to be worked out.
Q] There is a growing concern over the vulgar and violent content on OTT, while the industry insists on free speech and self regulation. Media reports say that MIB may come up with a Bill in this regard. How do you plan to regulate the content?
We are not planning any regulations on the content. The proposed Bill on broadcasting looks at the Digital media rules as well, which is under the IT act.
OTT will also become a part of that, but to say that fundamental change is involved in that Bill is incorrect.