Indian Broadcasters Fret Over Nepal’s Proposal

Nepal’s proposed Bill to make foreign broadcasters air their channels without advertisements has got Indian players worried.

A large number of TV channels being aired in Nepal are of Indian origin. The players have raised concerns over the alleged technical and economic non-viability of the proposed norms.

The Advertisement (Regulation) Bill has already been endorsed by the National Assembly (Upper House), according to Nepalese media reports, and will next be tabled in the House of Representatives (Lower House).

Raising their concerns through the diplomatic route, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has written to the Ministries of Information & Broadcasting and External Affairs, stating that its members may be forced to switch off their channels in Nepal, which in turn could lead to rampant piracy of content.

A delegation of Indian broadcasters also approached various stakeholders in Nepal earlier this month.

“We would like to state that it is not commercially viable for our member broadcasters to have a separate clean feed (without ads) specific to Nepal. Additionally, the implementation of stipulations pertaining to clean feed may be counterproductive for various reasons,” said the IBF in its letter.

The IBF, whose members cater to 90 percent of television viewership in India, said the launch of a clean feed will “inter-alia entail separate playout, uplink and downlink costs”.

“Nepal is an emerging market with very low average revenue per user (ARPU) and such exorbitant costs to create clean feeds are not justifiable from a business perspective,” it added.

Nepal’s TV subscription revenues are pegged at Rs. 40-50 crore annually. Sources said Indian TV channels will each incur recurring costs of Rs. 4-5 crore a year to lease transponders and invest in other equipment to transmit a clean feed.

Piracy fears

The new stipulation may force Indian broadcasters to “discontinue distribution of their channels in Nepal”, said the IBF, adding that “this will result in rampant piracy all over Nepal”. Nepalese cable operators may resort to installing set-top boxes and viewing cards of Indian DTH operators, it added.

Such piracy would lead to tax losses for both the Nepalese government and the Indian government, said the letter. Additionally, the Nepalese government may also miss out on the potential to earn annual licence fees for providing downlinking permission to each foreign channel, it pointed out.

The association further said consumers in Nepal may end up paying “exorbitant prices towards cable subscriptions to offset the cost of creating clean feed.” Sources said the non-availability of Indian channels in Nepal may create a vacuum, which is likely to be filled with channels of other countries.

This isn’t Nepal’s first attempt at clean feeds. The previous government there had considered a similar policy in 2017, but withdrew the plans following negative feedback from stakeholders.―The Hindu Business Line

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