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India's Media Market

Two men stand in front of a bank of TV screens on display in a shop. Picture credit: Reuters
Cable TV reaches 70 million, mainly urban, Indian homes, but satellite services are now expanding rapidly

India's media market


All sectors are opening up and booming. Steve Metcalf reports

India's media market has been experiencing a great boom in recent years, and analysts predict that there is more to come. The television sector continues to expand, with cable and satellite operators vying for customers. FM radio, only recently opened to the private sector, is taking off in a big way. And even the press, in defiance of world trends, is registering rising circulation figures.

A recent study said that radio in India could see investment of half a billion dollars in the next two years
A number of international media firms have launched joint ventures with local partners, although the government still maintains limits on foreign investment. And India's domestic broadcasters are leaving their regional bases and going into more local languages.

In addition, publishers are moving into broadcasting and vice versa. However, these cross-media moves could be threatened by new legislation. The government is considering introducing a bill, whose provisions may include limitations on ownership of different media.

Last year (2006) also saw the launch of Tata Sky, India's third direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV service. This partnership between the Tata industrial group and Rupert Murdoch's Star Network joins services already offered by Doordarshan and Dish TV, part of the Zee group.

The number of homes receiving DTH, at around three million, is currently dwarfed by the 70 million served by cable. But industry surveys have estimated that revenue from DTH pay-TV could grow from US$46 billion in 2005 to US$80 billion by 2009.

The satellite advantage

New satellite services have the advantage over existing cable of being able to offer the latest in digital technology. Moreover, the physical connections needed for cable are largely confined to urban areas.
Another growth area is private FM radio. Partly because it is starting from such a low base, it is seen as the country's fastest growing media sector. A recent study said that radio in India could see investment of half a billion dollars in the next two years.

The number of stations is in the process of growing from a few dozen to over 300. This opening up of the airwaves has also attracted the interest of foreign broadcasters, among them BBC Worldwide, which has bought a stake in Radio Mid-Day.

FM stations have not been allowed to broadcast news and current affairs, so far. But government sources have said that they are reconsidering this ban. This would be good news for BBC World Service, which has had to rely on a mixture of medium-wave and short-wave broadcasts, and carriage by some cable and satellite operators.

Steve Metcalf
Steve Metcalf is a media analyst with BBC Monitoring, responsible for following trends and developments around the world
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