Manish Tewari, Union Minister for Information & Broadcast spoke to CNBC-TV18 regarding his opinion on digitisation and how it is bringing sweeping changes in the television industry. Is digitisation really transforming the television landscape or is it just a source to infuse more money into the system? Tewari clarifies the doubts and shares his opinion on the same.
Below is a verbatim transcript of Manish Tewari's interview on CNBC-TV18
Q: You have 14 months before the end of the United Progressive Alliance-2 (UPA) government and have very little time as Information & Broadcasting Minister, what is first on your list of priorities given that time is short?
A: There is no real rocket science when it comes to figuring out what your priorities would be in the last fourteen months of the second term of the UPA government. That would be to get the good work which has been done over the past nine years to the people. So, that would remain the overriding priority over the next 14 months and that is why we have been trying to put in place both policies and programmes, which can effectively disseminate and communicate the UPA's message to the people.
Q: We have seen sweeping changes in television, how would you prioritize in those areas in terms of the different industries that the ministry of information and broadcasting is an umbrella for?
A: If you stack them in some picking order, they would stack horizontally rather than vertically. This is because each of them is equally important. We have gone through a digitisation process in the four metros. In has been successful in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, of course there have been teething issues. In Chennai, we have run into some legal hurdles but as we go into phase-2, we will learn from the experiences of phase-1.
We would try and take everybody along. That includes the last mile operators because one of the greatest criticisms when I took over, it was only 2 days before the deadline for phase-1 was suppose to expire. It has always been my principal that you stay the course and you do not change policy or you do not make a U-turn because your predecessor has done a particular thing in a particular way. So, we have stayed the course, learnt from that experience, the overriding lesson is that first of all, this should have been essentially a commercial and a social contract between the various stakeholders in this sector.
Q: Are you saying that didn’t happen effectively because the first deadline was mid-2012 and then it got deferred to November 1?
A: Yes, I know but that got deferred essentially because telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) did not put in place a regulatory architecture, which would have then facilitated all the commercial interconnected agreements to be in place for the rollout of the first phase. So that delay was for different reasons altogether.
There has to be a social and a commercial contract between all the stakeholders, it is another matter that government has taken upon itself to drive this process through a statutory remit but eventually not withstanding that statutory remit. The last mile operators who are somehow feeling shortchanged in this entire process, and I have been getting representations from all across the board.
It is important to bring that little man who is equally a part of the industry on board to see that everybody in this sweeping paradigm change, which has been attempted, comes out happier. I do not think it will help the process, if the largest bulk of people in this full chain feel that they are being robbed off their livelihood or their employment opportunities are being whittled down. Some of that could be legitimate, some of that could be exaggerated. But it is important that industry also makes an attempt to bring them on board so that we can have a seamless transition.