New Delhi: Blaming excessive regulations for the media and entertainment industry’s acute financial crisis, Rupert Murdoch’s Indian venture Star Group on Sunday said the government and regulator had no role in the sector.
At the same time, Star India CEO Uday Shankar alleged that politicians and industrialists were trying to control the media, saying: “There is a sense of media badgering that I get and I have increasingly been getting from the upper segments of the society...
“A lot of people do it innocently and I don’t doubt that for a moment ... but when an MP says, I smell a rat. Their (politician’s and industrialists) objective is to control it.”
Shankar said that the faulty government policies and lack of monitoring and accounting for cable industry and resultant revenue leakages had put the industry in a dire situation.
“Most of the players are facing acute financial crisis... other than two or three none is making money,” he said.
Demanding that the industry be left to market forces and content be monitored in conformity with the defined policy, he told PTI: “Government should step back from its control mindset and allow self regulation...
“I think government bodies are not comfortable with a vibrant media. By trying to control the media (by asking it to adhere to its Content Code), the government is not improving it but trying to defang it.”
The Group said it commands a market leadership position with 15% share and has the largest bouquet of channels ranging from sports to music to family entertainment.
On why he was suddenly raising these issues and if he had got a go-ahead from media baron Murodch, who was in India earlier this month, Shankar said he had spoken on industry issues earlier also and his mandate as CEO was to protect the interest of the group which he was doing.
He urged the industry to join forces for the common cause and overcome internal differences.
Asked if he was suggesting that the industry should overcome petty interests and infighting to face bigger challenges, he said: “Yes... You are putting words in my mouth but I will agree with that.”
On whether he was speaking on behalf of the entire industry and if the issue was being discussed by others in the business, he said: “The industry (Indian Broadcasting Foundation) is showing signs of coming together but it is not yet coming together with the urgency it should.”
Asked whether the broadcasters want the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and TRAI to completely lay off, Shankar said: “When newspapers can regulate themselves through Press Council of India and Editors Guild, then why not television channels? Regulation has to be redefined. Tariff fixation should be left to the market as it will serve the industry well.”
With Star India already on the board of IBF, a body of broadcasters formed in 1999 to promote the Indian broadcasting industry, Shankar added that instead of having another body, concrete action is required to address the issue of self regulation rather than just having internal discussions.
“More action is needed rather than discussions. A new approach is required to run the industry as internal rifts have hurt it,” Shankar said.
He also blamed an underdeveloped cable industry for what he called “broken down economics” of television channels in the country.
On Trai’s pay-per-view move, Shankar said “What they did is that tended up fattening the purse of the cable operators at the cost of the customers and the broadcasters.”
He said the word regulation itself needs to be reconsidered and that the objective of the regulatory body should be management and not regulation.
“In a regulated regime some party or stakeholder in the value chain would be a disproportionate beneficiary and the end-customer is always the loser,” Shankar added.