Prakash Javadekar assures broadcasters of regulatory stability

Mumbai: Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar assured India’s top broadcasters of regulatory stability and said that the government doesn’t want any disruption in the sector at this time as that will add to volatility, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The minister told office bearers of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) on Friday that he will consult with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on changes in the tariff order and its recommendations on the rating agency BARC India.

The IBF had raised concerns regarding amendments to the new tariff order (NTO 2.0) by Trai, which were notified on January 1 and were to come into effect on April 1. Broadcasters are of the view that if implemented, NTO 2.0 will be detrimental to the business and limit pricing power.

Javadekar said he’s aware of the hardships the sector is going through because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown and extended his support to the sector.

The meeting was attended by IBF president NP Singh, also head of Sony Pictures Networks India; Uday Shankar, president, Asia-Pacific, Walt Disney Co and chairman of Star and Disney India; Punit Goenka, MD, Zee Entertainment Enterprises; Rajat Sharma, president, News Broadcasters’ Association, and chairman, India TV; and Aroon Purie, chairman, India Today Group.

Among other issues discussed were permission to shoot for films and television content and dues from the Bureau of Outreach and Communication (BOC) to the industry.

“While the NTO 2.0 matter is sub judice, the minister said that the government is thinking very seriously about regulatory stability. He said his ministry will have a discussion with Trai on both — NTO 2.0 and BARC matters,” said one of the people with knowledge of the matter.

While the BARC recommendations will not come into effect until the ministry accepts them, Trai, an autonomous body, enjoys full jurisdiction over tariff-related matters and has been vocal on implementing the order.

Sneha Jaisingh, partner at law firm Bharucha & Partners, said that the ministry has powers to direct Trai to reconsider its decisions. But “one is unaware whether such a decision has indeed been made and if so, how it is to be implemented,” she said. “Given the present crisis, a lot of ameliorating measures are being undertaken as we all know.”

Javadekar said the industry should try and settle concerns over ratings internally.

The minister also said that he will talk to the Maharashtra state government on permission to shoot for shows. All shooting has been stopped since March 19 and broadcasters have been airing repeat content on their channels.

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