The government’s assertion that cable TV connections should be cheap is nothing but populism and has resulted in enormous pressure on the media, said India Today Group chairperson Aroon Purie.
“It seems that the governments of today think that there is a constitutional right for our citizens to get a cheap cable connection. This is just political populism. Here again, the consumer is getting media cheap and the share to the broadcaster for subscriptions is much less than international standards. They are leading to heavy dependence on advertising and chasing TRPs (television rating points), at least for news channels,” Purie said while delivering the Subhas Ghosal Memorial Lecture 2022, organised by the Advertising Agencies Association of India and Subhas Ghosal Foundation, in Mumbai.
The minimal cost for consumers and the subsequent dependence on advertising revenue have created great pressure on the print and broadcast media, Purie said. Media has to do a balancing act – achieve financial viability and handle the pressure from the government and advertisers at the same time, he noted. The India Today Group operates television channels and digital platforms and publishes magazines.
“Journalism is a noble profession. The currency of the news media is credibility. Many media houses are still serving society, holding truth to power, and are known for their credibility. However, media in India is very cheap compared to other countries. The subscription model for digital platforms is very successful abroad, not in our country,” Purie said.
He said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India regulates the price at which TV channels are offered to consumers.
“Cable connection also comes cheap and that’s why news channels are heavily dependent on advertisers and are chasing TRPs,” he added, according to a report by Exchange4Media. “Free press is a force for good, it is essential for India’s survival and growth. Next time when you castigate the press, do think whether India would be better off without it.”
Sam Balsara, chairman of Madison World, a media investments company, agreed. The government should not interfere and decide individual channel pricing – that’s a matter best left to the private sector, according to him.
“I think the government could step in if there is some foul play... But I think this is a matter of demand and supply. If the prices are too high, then consumers will not watch it. I don’t think it is necessary for the government to do this. In consumer interest, the number of options available to them are many,” Balsara said.