MUMBAI, March 25, 2015. The government has held out the assurance that it would address upfront the challenges before the media and entertainment sector such as emerging technologies giving way to new media platforms, great diversification of content, industry trying out new business and revenue models and the fact that today every youngster was keen on launching mobile apps.
“These are exciting times for the media and entertainment sector,” said Mr. J S Mathur, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, at the FICCI FRAMES 2015 convention that got under way here today. Mr. Mathur, however, cautioned that exciting times always come with challenges and assured a packed house that the new government was trying to meet these challenges.
Speaking about the Government’s vision for a digital India, Mr. Mathur said, “After the limited phase 1 and 2 of digitisation, the rollout for phase 3 and 4 that is going to cover the entire country, including rural India, was a major step forward with tremendous stakes for all stakeholders.” He called upon the industry to work together to ensure that the consumer gets the best out of this new development, while seeing that stakeholders also get their due.
Mr. Mathur also informed the gathering that FM radio expansion has received government’s approval. The first batch of phase 3 of radio e-auctions has been rolled out, covering 69 cities and 135 channels. The next phase will add another 1000-odd channels spread across the length and breadth of the country.
On the occasion, FICCI-KPMG report was also released by the dignitaries present at the inaugural session.
Dr. Jyotsna Suri, President, FICCI, said that FICCI urges the government to undertake some critical initiatives towards the sector’s growth. These include expanding the net of co-production audio-visual agreements to include more countries in our outreach – after all India’s Foreign Direct Investment regulations permit 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route in film production; augmenting screen density in the country; bringing the process of broadcast digitization to an efficient closure; a re-invented film commission to take over the process of Single Window Clearances for shooting which should aim to work in a seamless fashion with state governments; and finally the process of subsuming all entertainment taxes into GST. With these in place, India will be unquestioningly at the centre of the global media and entertainment “movement”.
Mr. Ramesh Sippy, Co-Chair, FICCI Entertainment Committee, said that the M&E sector has grown substantially over the years and holds a lot of promise for the future. Highlighting some of the initiatives that FICCI had undertaken to promote the sector, he said that co-production have been signed with China and Canada; a proposal had been sent to the I&B Ministry and Prasar Bharati to start dedicated channels for kids; a proposal has been moved for setting up National Centre of Excellence for Animation and Gaming in PPP mode; need to reduce tax on royalty; urging the I&B Ministry to push forward the Cinematograph Bill in Parliament; subsuming all entertainment taxes into GST in April 2016; proposal to making India a teleport hub and creating awareness amongst production houses to use the co-production treaties already in place with the UK, Italy, Australia, Canada and China.
Mr. Kamal Haasan, Chairman, FICCI MBEC South, said that for the Indian M&E industry to grow the need was to penetrate the rural India which is home to two-thirds of the population. The media sector cannot afford to be complacent at this stage, and there was a need for innovative thinking, generation of quality content and refurbishing of businesses to stay relevant in the market. He said that all M&E platforms were now merging and the sector is one fraternity.
Mr. Harit Nagpal, CEO & MD, TataSky, said that there was a need to take the production centres to small cities and rural India where the talent was in abundance and informed that a rural entrepreneur scheme was already in place across the country. Creating new professionals and promoting rural entrepreneurs would help in bringing forth innovative ideas and a new wave of thinking which the M&E industry lacks currently owing to various governmental restrictions. He added that now was the time for the industry to do things differently and do different things.
He stated that India should look towards self-regulation in the M&E sector and in case of any violations, the guilty party should be penalised and in grave issues the government could also consider cancelling of the license. He added that like any other industry, the entertainment industry was also one of the drivers of the economy and a source of employment generation, hence it could lead India to the next level of economic empowerment if the government and the industry pushed the sector in the right direction.
The audience was also treated to an interesting dialogue with Mr. Aamir Khan, Actor & Producer, who took questions from NDTV’s Editorial Director, Ms. Sonia Singh. The actor disclosed that he never looks at the ‘business aspect’ when he is working on a film. He simply gets immersed in the story. “Indians take to hardware very quickly,” he said, referring to the rapid sales of the latest phones and computers. “However, the issue lies in software.” What he meant is that regardless of the best material objects that people own, they ultimately need to learn how to use them well, so that society as a whole benefits and moves forward.
Mr. Khan was also of the view that the media and entertainment industry has a large role to play in the social evolution of the country. “Sure, our job is to entertain, but does it stop there?” He felt that his industry should introspect about the content they are creating, to influence minds and infuse in young India with qualities that we can all be proud of. In his opinion, there is a huge opportunity for the media to transform India, more important than money and numbers. Being obsessed with numbers can stifle creativity.
He said that he was against ban of any kind on content and was happy that the I&B Minister clarified that his ministry does not have any list of words that should or should not be used. The statutory board is a Certification Board, not a Censor Board, and its role is to certify, he added.
Dr. Arbind Prasad, Director General, FICCI, proposed a vote of thanks
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