On the two biggest threats to Indian media

The first is government interference in the business of media. Local and national governments are becoming increasingly intolerant of media criticism and are threatening the freedom of press, both directly and indirectly, through measures like ad caps, low DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) rates and wage-board requirements. Media owners need to resist this pressure.

Second, digital media, especially mobile, will become the first source of information and entertainment. Traditional media must evolve to succeed in this space, but government should also increase its understanding of digital and proactively work to enable a healthy, competitive, and innovation-led growth. So, for example, government should restrict pipe owners (like direct-to-home, or DTH, companies and telecom operators) from unfairly favouring their own content or services over others, and ensure a level-playing field.

On the decline of the print media

The global issues in print aren’t there in India; we continue to see circulation and advertising growth. There is still low literacy and low newspaper penetration compared to global levels. And more importantly, newspapers here have done a better job of staying relevant to their consumers than those abroad, with more compelling content and a better value proposition.

On digital media monetization

It is monetizable today, just not as much as one would like to see. But over time, rates will increase, as they are too low today, and we expect 30-50% growth every year for many years to come.

On higher foreign direct investment (FDI) helping news media

Yes, it will. We are not against FDI. For the last few years, most media companies have remained unprofitable. Further liberalization will allow investment that can sustain and grow businesses as the industry grows. The Indian media market is still substantially smaller than its global peers, and we should encourage investment into its growth to see it expand.

What is the final frontier for the Times Group?

We are leaders in print and radio, and we will continue to improve our share in those businesses. Going forward, we will focus heavily on television and digital, where we have the most room for growth.

Hindustan Times and Mint, published by HT Media, compete with BCCL’s The Times of India and The Economic Times in several markets.

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