Broadcasting Bill may lead to regulatory issues: Disney Star chief

K Madhavan, president of IBDF and Disney Star chief, has been re-elected for the third time. In an interview with ET, Madhavan voiced concerns about the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s draft Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill and its impact on creative freedom. Edited excerpts:

You have been re-elected as IBDF president for the third time. What will be your key priorities going forward?

Over the past two years, we’ve made substantial strides by collaborating with regulators and policymakers to foster a favorable environment for the media & entertainment (M&E) industry. Our efforts have emphasised the importance of light-touch regulation, especially within the context of content self-regulation, market-driven pricing, distribution framework forbearance, a National Broadcasting Policy (NBP), and positioning India as a global content and tech hub. We played a pivotal role in enacting New Tariff Order 3.0, addressing concerns like spectrum auctions for 5G deployment and broadcasting-telecom convergence. Our overarching goal as an industry is to propel the M&E sector to a $100 billion target by 2030.What impact will the MIB’s BSRB have on the M&E sector?
The bill seeks to integrate TV, radio, and OTT guidelines, potentially imposing a linear broadcasting framework on OTT services, leading to regulatory challenges. It defines “broadcasting” as “one-to-many,” including one-to-one OTT transmissions, and labels “OTT broadcasting service operators” as “broadcasting network operators,” despite network operators being telecom and internet service providers. The bill’s inclusion of Content Evaluation Committees and government oversight could stifle creative freedom and overly regulate content creation in TV and OTT. IBDF advocates for a flexible policy that fosters innovation and industry growth in diverse scenarios.

Broadcasters’ ad and subscription revenues have been under pressure. When do you expect both revenue streams to bounce back?
The broadcast sector has faced challenges since late 2022 that can be attributed to global macroeconomic factors like inflation and supply chain disruptions. Some traditional advertisers, such as startups, auto companies, and online betting platforms, reduced TV advertising, creating a temporary gap. However, during the current festive season, early signs of recovery are evident compared to last year. Pay-TV experienced moderation post-Covid, but in the current fiscal year, BARC data shows a 6 million increase in Pay TV connections, indicating a positive trend for the industry’s growth in the coming months.

You met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July. What were the key issues that you discussed with him?
We emphasised the importance of a national M&E policy during the discussion with the PM, with an aim to improve the efficiency of the industry.

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