Remember what happened to the Indian telecom sector after Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Mobile was launched? Jio offered dirt cheap call and data tariff. It destroyed many telecom companies. Some disappeared for ever, some merged to stay afloat. Government has advised the state run BSNL to think about the possibility of closing down! Same thing is going to happen in Cable TV and Broad Band industry in India. The facilitator is Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with its new tariff regime.
TRAI’s new tariff regime is purported to help the customers. Customers can choose which channels they want to watch and pay for only for them. But, there’s a catch. TRAI gave the cable companies just one month to implement the new tariff regime. Many small Cable TV operators didn’t have the time or infrastructure to implement the new system. They went to the court to stay the order. They didn’t get any relief. What they are doing now would be at their own peril.
I used to pay Rs 200 for a month for about 300 TV channels. After the TRAI regime was implemented I had to choose the channels. My local cable TV operator didn’t give me the option to choose individual channels I want to watch. Perhaps they didn’t have the time to implement the infrastructure. What they are offering online now is a bouquet of channels. If I want to watch a few of my favorite channels I have to pay double the amount now. It’s emptying my pocket as well a as a strict violation of TRAI regulations. Even after paying about Rs 400 I can’t now watch NDTV News, one of the most balanced news that I can get on TV!
There are four important points to remember.
- The Cable TV operator is violating TRAI order and may get a stricture from TRAI
- It’s emptying my pocket
- It’s controlling information flow just before the national elections
- It may affect the circulation of News Papers, as consumers may not be able to afford to pay both Cable TV and News Papers, thereby controlling the flow of information.
This is the situation of most of the small Cable TV operators around the country. They may get a stricture from TRAI and their license may be cancelled as well as the possibility of losing consumers.
However, all is not lost! Mukesh Ambani’s there to save us, like he saved India’s telecom industry. Jio GigaFiber a Cable TV/Broad Band fiber network is slated to be launched as early as next month. Registration for which started on August 15, 2018. As build up to its launch Reliance industries acquired India’s two of the largest cable TV/Broad Band operators Hathway and Den! Even before its launch Ambani controls most of Cable TV in India. Now, when the small operators go bankrupt, GigaFiber will either acquire or allow them die and fill its space by offering the consumers a dirt cheap package. Soon, the Cable TV and Broad Band industry in India will be under the control of Ambani!
Remember the 8 November 2016 Demonetisation announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just before Jio Money was launched? P.M Modi will go all the way to ensure that his boss Mukesh Ambani gets full benefit of his investment before his term comes to an end. Don’t be surprised if you see more abrupt announcements on Cable/Broadband industry in the coming months!
Modis may come and go. Ambani Raj is here to stay. Big Brother Ambani will decide what you watch, read and hear and monitor you too!
Binu Mathew is the Editor of Countercurrents.org