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Policy on HITS, phase III FM radio will be only after LS polls
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NEW DELHI: For the stakeholders who were waiting for policy decisions on key media issues from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the answers would now come only after the new government took charge.

Some pending projects will be considered after the Lok Sabha polls, MIB additional secretary Uday K Varma said.

"Other decisions too will be taken into consideration soon when a new government comes to power in two months' time," Varma said, while delivering the keynote address during the India Satellite Forum 2009 organised by Casbaa.

The industry is still waiting for government policies on complete digitisation of cable television in Cas areas, satellite radio, Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS), and phase III of private FM radio.

The government has already come out with the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) policy, guidelines on DTH, and mandate for partial digitisation of cable television.

Varma said today inter and intra operability of direct-to-home television was posing some problems that needed serious examination.

Referring to impediments to digitisation of signals, he said it was necessary to ensure that the last mile cable operator did not show some pay channels in the non-encrypted mode, and there should be a systematic system for consumer grievances.

Varma said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had, however, already made some recommendations in this regard. He granted that there was a law for checking cable operators with regard to entertainment channels being shown in the non-encrypted mode, but there was failure in implementation.

In a carefully worded-speech that avoided any policy announcements in view of the Model Code of Conduct in view of the forthcoming general elections, Varma however said in a keynote address at the Casbaa Indian Satellite Forum 2009 here that the sectoral caps of foreign direct investment were under review of the government.

Similarly, he said the new government would have to take a decision on whether to permit more digitised radio channels, as WorldSpace was the only operator in this field at present.

He said Trai had made some recommendations in this regard, and also with regard to inter-connectivity and tariffs which were either under process of consultation with stakeholders or under consideration of the government.

At the outset, Varma said Indian media had shown healthy growth despite the global recession, with a compounded annual growth rate of 15 per cent and a projected CAGR of 12.5 per cent over the next five years. He said this was because of the policy framework of the government and its commitment to facilitate growth.

He said DTH had stabilised in the country with five operators already servicing consumers and the sector was growing at a CAGR of 5 per cent with subscribers to rise from the present 10 to 28 million by 2013. The Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Guidelines had been announced in September last year, conditional access system had been successfully implemented in the metropolitan cities, and FM radio was seeing good growth.

The recent decision to permit FM radio channels to broadcast political advertisements, and the decision to scrap the 15 per cent commission that was being taken by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity had also helped the media, apart from the simplification of the guidelines relating to foreign direct investment, particularly by non-resident Indians.

He said that IPTV could not be operated by both telecom and cable operators and the guidelines had provision for as many as 400 channels under IPTV. The number of broadband consumers expected to rise from the present five million to 20 million in the next five years would give added advantage and provide competition to pay and cable services.

He said that of the total 78.5 million TV sets in the country, not more than a million were digitised, but Cas was helping. He said Cas had achieved the largest penetration in Mumbai and the lowest in Chennai.

Referring to mobile TV, he noted that Trai had said the government should not mandate any particular technology. But there was need for the broadcast service providers to consider the travel time inter and intra-city, people’s passion for cricket, cheaper handsets, and special content for the shorter attention span for the viewer of mobile TV.

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