The working group set up by the Social Communication Council (CCS) to diagnose the cable TV industry and recommend a revitalization formula delivered its report on Tuesday, August 26. The document was approved by the committee responsible and will be submitted to a plenary vote in the Council next Monday, September 3. According to the report, ?a new model should be based on universalization of cable TV and market expansion as means, and on increased social utility of the service as the end?. In other words, the group proposes ways of driving growth for the industry while at the same time making it available to many more users.
In contrast with the October 2002 proposal presented by ABTA, which emphasized issues such as programming agreements and other aspects of intra-industry relations, the CCS working group recommends policy guidelines geared to rationalization of operations and infrastructure, special lines of credit to finance technology development and capital expenditure, tax breaks, import substitution, and subsidies to enable low-income households to consume cable TV, among others.
The CCS working group?s main assumption is that any solution adopted to promote universal access must start from economic feasibility in the business sense. The goal is to achieve 100% penetration of homes passed and a position where all networks are bidirectional.
The report outlines a plan of action and public policy suggestions including the creation of basic packages without set-tops or receivers (to reduce entry cost), transfer of liability for the internal network to the subscriber (as used to be the case with telephone lines under the Telebras state monopoly), a unified advertising campaign to support pay-TV services (eliminating marketing costs for individual distributors), lower pole rental charges, and tax exemption for entry-price programming packages.
Another idea is to create what the report calls collective modes of subscription. For example, a cable company would sell a subscription to a squatter settlement (favela), and the community would be responsible for distributing the signal inside the area and charging local residents who wanted the service. The same would apply to Internet access via cable modem. The report also recommends a voucher scheme (Vale TV) to subsidize pay-TV subscriptions along similar lines to fuel vouchers or food stamps.
The report stresses the CCS working group?s belief in the social function of pay TV. This is the rationale for the policies and actions it proposes. All distributors should offer seven public utility channels as well as cultural and education channels, alongside the broadcast networks, as part of a basic package supported by official subsidies and credit, says the report.
The report also advocates universalization of cable TV as a major driver of growth for the entire audiovisual industry and government incentives for content production to promote consumption of cable TV itself.