New Delhi: The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the representative body of television broadcasters, has demanded infrastructure status for the broadcast and content distribution sector in pre-budget consultation with finance minister Arun Jaitley held on 26 November.
According to a statement released by the IBF on Monday, the foundation said that ‘infrastructure status’ will help the industry achieve the final phase of cable digitization.
“Once infrastructure status is granted, broadcasters and distribution platforms will be aided with better and affordable financing options in the very capital-intensive growth phase to realise the mission of complete digitization in the country,” said Punit Goenka, president of IBF and managing director and chief executive officer of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL).
Infrastructure sector status helps a sector avail tax benefits and easier access to domestic and global funding. The phase IV of cable digitization is to be completed by 31 December 2016. The government has completed phase III of digitization barring a few states which had moved various courts asking for an extension of the deadline.
Earlier this month, the Delhi high court had dismissed these appeals and instead directed the petitioners to switch off analogue and move on to digital addressable systems by 24 November.
Girish Srivastava, secretary general of IBF, said that digitization initiative requires another Rs25,000- 30,000 crore of investment across broadcast centres, digital headends, direct-to-home (DTH) infrastructure, headend in the sky (HITS) infrastructure, optical fibre network and teleports to be completed.
“Once ‘infrastructure status’ is accorded, it will boost the confidence of private sector firms either upscaling their networks or new investments due to easy financing options in such a capital-intensive sector,” he said.
Srivastava added that broadcast and content distribution infrastructure can also contribute to the e-governance initiative of the government. “The broadcasting and content distribution infrastructure like telecom, is important infrastructure for the country. Besides delivering digital television signals, it can be effectively used to deliver broadband services,” he said.
Other demands raised by IBF on the tax and regulatory front included transponder royalty, TDS (tax deducted at source) rationalization and MAT (minimum alternate tax) rationalization.
According to A. Mohan, president of Zee Network, if these issues are addressed, “It would be a good example in the direction of ease of doing business in country.”
“Television has become an integral part of everyone’s life and has attained a status akin to ‘essential services’ as it is an important tool for dissemination of information and entertainment to masses. Accordingly broadcasting and distribution services should be subjected to a lower rate under GST (goods and services tax) regime as is applicable to essential services, to make them affordable to masses,” he added.