‘The TV industry needs a self-regulatory body’

Vivek Bahl, creative head, Star India speaks on the challenges facing the TV industry in a discussion with Moneylife

Moneylife (ML): Channels are proliferating, but the revenue models of a number of them seem to be under severe pressure. Can the industry sustain the number of channels that exist now? Do you see any kind of consolidation happening in the industry, as the size of the advertising pie has not really grown?

Vivek Bahl (VB): You know everyone has been saying and questioning whether channels will sustain. I believe a lot of them are not shutting down. I think India is growing so much in terms of population, that there will be products to advertise.

Now slowly the industry is getting regulated, there are big cable companies who have actually started paying channels. So I don't think that there is going to be a 'shake-off' and a lot of channels are not going to shut down.

Advertisers have huge budgets and India is still booming as it is one of the biggest economies in the world-probably the second-biggest economy in terms of growth.

Yes, there have been some channels that were on the verge of shutting down last year (for instance, 9X), but they have still managed to get funding today and they have plans to bounce back and develop new content. Cable money support is (also) helping channels stay on. (However), how long this trend will continue is uncertain and it is definitely not sustainable for a very long period.

ML: Consumers in India, long used to free content, don't seem ready to shell out extra for pay channels. Will this scenario ever change?

VB: It is changing slowly because of the (difference between the) number of people who could afford cable (television) 10 years ago and the number of people who can afford it today-any consumer can afford to pay Rs150 to Rs200 a month for cable today. And now viewers see the potential of seeing so many channels and a whole dose of entertainment, rather than going out for a movie and spending that kind of money. Here they can see all the latest movies that make it to the channels. I think people have started seeing value in this and are shelling out that kind of money. It is not a huge amount, as compared to going to a movie or even going to a coffee shop these days-or even accessing the Internet.

ML: Regulation of TV channels is another important issue, both for news and entertainment channels. Self-regulation is obviously good for the industry, but what are the moves being made towards this by TV channels?   

VB: I definitely don't think there is a role for outsiders like the government to come into TV because they try to impose rules about what should be shown and that is not always desirable for creativity. I don't think people should meddle with creativity. The television industry is responsible enough and we need to have a self-regulatory body like the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for television. Star TV has pushed the process over the past few months. Recently, (the) top three channels have come together and (have) agreed to set up a body like this-we are in the process of completing the same.

ML: Has satellite TV lived up to its promise?

VB: I think it is still a very young industry. If you actually look at it, the satellite TV industry kicked off in 1992 when Zee was launched. So compared to the international level, it is still a very young, disorganised and a growing industry-which is slowly getting organised. In fact I can see some tremendous changes as I have been here since the beginning, because I was in Zee when they had launched the channel.

People have become more professional in the way they work and even the content has improved. Channels are getting segmented with more professionalism involved.

ML: There have been talks of starting channels which are ad-free in the industry. What's your take on this move?

VB: Channels would love to create something like that, but they will have to become much more transparent. The cable sector is still unorganised and they usually don't pay us. If they earn Rs200 per month, they have to give a network Rs50 per month-but they don't usually pay. If they have, say, 1,000 consumers, they actually show that they have only 100 of them and pay only that amount. If all the money (that should be paid) comes to us, it will make a lot of difference. Our business is to cater to viewers, so if we get a chance to show more content, we would love to do that. I would love to create a show which relies on one-minute ads. We are forced to air eight to ten minutes of ads during our shows. This (ad-free programming) will surely be a wonderful opportunity.


Indian hiring activity among world's highest: Survey

India has continued to make a steady recovery from its depressing start of 2009, when less than 30% firms in the country were recruiting at professional or managerial levels

All those looking for a job, India is surely the place to be, as current hiring levels in the country for professional and managerial staff have emerged as one of the highest worldwide, reports PTI.

Global staffing firm Antal, conducted a survey-Global Snapshot-across more than 9,600 companies in 55 countries in May on whether they were currently hiring and firing at professional and managerial levels.

"The trends around the world found that not only have recruitment levels in India increased since the beginning of the year, they are now among the highest in the world," the survey stated.

India has continued to make a steady recovery from its depressing start of 2009, when less than 30% firms in the country were recruiting at professional or managerial levels.

Current hiring levels in the country are up at 73% in the survey conducted in May, from 71% in January, while the percentage of firms shedding staff is down to just 11% now from 16% earlier, the report revealed.

Countries having a higher rate of hiring included Canada (76%), Egypt and Malaysia (75%), Argentina and Saudi Arabia (74%).

China and Pakistan also witnessed strong hiring rates at 72% and 62%, respectively.

"We have seen resurgent activity in hiring in the past few months at the mid and senior levels. Our revenues have nearly doubled from the previous quarter," Antal's Mumbai office managing partner Joseph Devasia said.

"We have seen increased hiring across several sectors, including manufacturing, which is a great sign," Mr Devasia added.

The lead in the on-going recovery seems to have been taken by the manufacturing sector where a staggering 96 per cent companies are planning to hire over the next three months.

The survey also showed that Indian organisations plan on increasing their hiring activity even more, with 77% expecting to hire managerial staff over the next three months.


Oil regulator approves Mukesh Ambani firm’s pipeline tariff

RGTIL, majority owned by Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, has been allowed to charge five different tariffs along the pipeline route

Oil regulator Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) has approved the tariff that billionaire Mukesh Ambani-owned East-West pipeline will charge for transporting gas from fields off the east coast to users, reports PTI.

PNGRB on 9th June approved the zonal tariff for Reliance Gas Transportation and Infrastructure Ltd's (RGTIL) 1,395-km pipeline from Gadimoga near Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh to Bharuch in Gujarat.

RGTIL, majority owned by Reliance Industries (RIL) chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, has been allowed to charge five different tariffs along the pipeline route. The 48-inch pipeline, the largest in Asia, has been divided into five zones of 300-km each, PNGRB said in its order.

The company will charge Rs15 per million metric British thermal unit (mmBtu) from customers like Anil Ambani Group's Samalkot power plant, which will get RIL's KG-D6 gas in zone-1 that is Andhra Pradesh.

For zone-2 and 3, the tariff has been fixed at Rs42 per mmBtu and Rs53.69 per mmBtu respectively, but there are very few customers on this stretch of the pipeline.

For zone-4, falling in Maharashtra, the tariff has been fixed at Rs58.75 per mmBtu and Rs60.94 per mmBtu is the tariff that customers in Gujarat will pay to RGTIL, the order said.

Most of the KG-D6 customers are in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

PNGRB said the tariff would be applicable from 1 April 2009 when the pipeline began shipping gas from KG-D6 to the customers.

"The difference between the zonal tariff already charged by the entities and that approved by the board shall be adjusted retrospectively with the customers for the relevant periods," the order stated.

PNGRB had, on 19th April, approved a provisional levelised (or average) tariff of Rs52.23 per mmBtu for the pipeline that can transport 80 million standard cubic meters per day of gas when all the 10 compressors are installed.

RGTIL, which charged Rs15 per mmBtu for transporting gas in zone-1 and Rs61.77 per mmBtu for states between Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, had sought a levelised tariff of Rs53.64 per mmBtu.

PNGRB's order asking RGTIL to have five zonal tariffs would mean that it will charge different transportation fee for ferrying gas to users in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

In effect, users in Maharashtra, like the Dabhol Power, Plant will have to pay less than those in Gujarat. Currently, users in both states pay the same tariff.


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