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Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004

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Tenth Anniversary Special - Radio/TV


It is show time in media

Nithya Subramaniam

DIRECT-TO-HOME, video-on-demand, multi-media messaging service (MMS)... just some of the new media vehicles that have taken off in the last decade.

A sector that had remained closed and stodgy, exploded into action with a boom in the television, radio, print and films business. Not only this, several new modes of communication such as the Internet and mobile services are all set for a big take off. The industry is set to grow to Rs 41,900 crore by 2007.

The years gone by have seen media companies tapping the capital market, introducing a whole host of television and radio channels and the corporatisation of the chaotic film industry.

But the most significant changes have happened in the television broadcasting industry. From just 10 channels available in the country in 1993 to 220 channels by the end of 2003, the small screen has grown by serials and features. Now, to regulate the industry, the Government has seated the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in the director's chair.

Cable television entered India when CNN brought home the first Gulf War; then ended the government monopoly on broadcasting. "Had it not been for Mr Subhash Chandra, Indian television industry would not have been what it is today. Consumers today enjoy a wide spectrum of programming that spans across a bouquet of channels and all this happened in a decade of launching Zee TV," said Mr Ashish Kaul, Vice-President (Corporate Brand Development), Essel Group.

This led to a wide variety of programming choices for consumers. Besides entertainment channels, a host of news channels has hit the small screen.

According to Mr Atul Phadnis, Director, S-Group, TAM India, "While the channel line-ups have changed so have the kind of programmes that were liked by audiences. For instance, as per TV ADEX, the top revenue grossing programme has changed from Chitrahaar (DD, 1994) to Hum Paanch (Zee TV, 1997) to Kaun Banega Crorepati (Star Plus, 2000) to Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhie Bahu Thi (Star Plus, 2003)."

The decade has also been witness to several changes among corporates in the broadcasting. It has created rivals out of alliance partners. Zee and Star, which were partners at one point of time, spilt. So did the alliance between NDTV and Star.

In terms of technology too, there have been significant changes. The Government created a mess by trying to roll out the conditional access system (CAS). Along with this, others technologies such as direct-to-home were set to take off.

The good-old radio also went through a transformation. It was radio gaga all the way. About 10 years back, All India Radio (AIR) dominated with 283 broadcasting centres airing shows in 24 languages and 146 dialects, covering 90 per cent of the country and with a reach of over 98 per cent.

For about four decades, the Centre did not permit private radio stations to broadcast in the country. But in 1993, it permitted some private operators to buy slots on AIR. In 1998, this was stopped after Prasar Bharati decided not to review the contracts. Due to huge revenue losses, in July 1999, the Government announced that 150 new FM channels would be licensed across 40 cities. In 2000, licences were auctioned and the focus was the metros.

But the FM privatisation has not met with the success the Government expected it to be. The FM players have launched operations in just over a dozen of centres. The industry has been claiming huge losses. On revenues of just Rs 40 crore, losses have crossed Rs 115 crore. Amongst all the revolutions taking place, cinema has not been left behind. The way of doing business in this rather chaotic industry has also changed. "The explosion in media and the live coverage of news has completely transformed the lifestyles of people. It has impacted people's tastes in fashion, travel and the whole culture of the present population," said Mr Sanjay Bhutiani, Head of Leo Entertainment.

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