@FF12: Opening session weighs pros & cons of digitization

15 Mar,2012


By A Correspondent


FICCI Frames 2012, now in its 13th year, kicked off on March 14, Wednesday at Hotel Renaissance, Mumbai. The morning session started with a welcome address from Karan Johar, Co-chair, FICCI Entertainment Committee. After Mr Johar’s welcome address, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India & Chairman, FICCI Broadcast Forum, took the stage to address the audience.


In keeping with the theme, ‘Embracing the Digital World’, Mr Shankar said “digitisation is a big reality which will revolutionise the way content (creation and distribution) is offered”. Even though he said that digitisation will create a level playing field for the broadcasters and the cable operators, he had a word of caution to ad when he said that his biggest concern was “the chaos which will be caused by the broadcast industry’s inaction”.


Mr Shankar was of the opinion that instead of lamenting the loss of carriage fees, the MSOs should appreciate the opportunity of “customisation and localisation of content” being presented by digitisation.


Though Mr Shankar admitted that there is a need for legislative enablers to remove the bottlenecks, he also said that the broadcast industry is still not ready to move to the digital format. To drive home his point he used the example of the film The Artist, where the star of the silent era films loses out when he refuses to move with times. With this word of caution, Mr Shankar ended his keynote address.


Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister,Maharashtra, next took the stage to talk about the “exciting times that we are living in”. He said that the challenge is to adopt the regulatory framework to the new technology and ensure that over regulation doesn’t kill a good thing. He also said that the move towards digitisation will create a huge employment opportunity. He stressed on the need to balance technology with creativity, adding that “growth should not be lopsided but all inclusive”.


Shri Chavan also stated that the government is taking all possible steps to ensure that content piracy is curbed but accepted that the state has not delivered on its promises to curb piracy till now.


He also touched upon the need for regulation and said that regulation is a major challenge. Shri Chavan suggested that instead of the state regulating the media; it should look at self regulation.


Moving on, Shri Chavan welcomed the foreign delegates and announced that his government was creating new centres for film shooting in the state. He stated that the first such centre will come up atKolhapur, where entrepreneurs would be provided with lots of financial incentives. He said that the government will “protect any creative attempt within the framework and not allow any fascists elements to disrupt it”. He also assured the film industry that its concerns over policing on film locations would be looked into.


The Chief Minister also released the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012; FICCI-Amarchand Lawbook and ‘Positivity: The impact of television on India’ by The Indian Broadcasting Foundation.


Mr Jehil Thakkar, Head, Media & Entertainment Practises, KPMG made a brief presentation about the highlights of the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012.


Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman, Motion Pictures Association of America, who took the stage next, underlined the need to look into stringent regulations against content theft.  “When content is stolen, 95 per cent of the people who contribute to the vitality and success of a film are adversely affected”, he said. Quoting an Ernst & Young report, he said, movie theft contributes to a loss of US$ 1 billion annually and threatens the jobs of half a million people. He stated thatIndiais among the top 10 nations as far as online copyright infringement is concerned. He said that technology (digitisation) and content need each other and one can’t be without the other.


Mr Uday K Varma, Secretary, Ministry of I&B, opened his address by stating that the concerns that the industry had over digitisation and the Phase 3 of FM radio have been addressed by the move to allow 839 new FM stations and 500 community radio stations.


He stressed that the government is committed to ensure time bound digitisation and said that come July 1, the four metros will switch over to the digital format and the plan is to ensure that the move to digitalisation is completed by December 31, 2014. He agreed that the challenge was mammoth- to convert 80 million analog connections to digital format but added that the move will ensure faster and deeper penetration. “This will address a plethora of issues facing the television industry, such as addressability, carriage fees, audience measurement and consumer choice,” he said.


Mr Varma added that in order to combat piracy, they intend to carry out an all-encompassing multi-media campaign during the 12th five year plan period involving all stakeholders from the film and music industries.


He also outlined the ministry’s plan to celebrate 100 years of cinema inIndia. Mr Varma said that the Government of India, in cooperation with the film industry, has a line of activities between May 3, 2012 and May 3, 2013. It also proposes to present a tableaux of ‘100 years of Indian Cinema’ at the Republic Day parade next year where the plan is that the stalwarts of the industry also take part.


Mr Varma also announced that the government is setting up a National Film Heritage Mission to safeguard India’s celluloid history by undertaking picture and sound restoration of more than 2,500 films. In Addition, theMission, with a budget of over Rs500 crore, would also look at constructing preservation vaults for archiving restored material, and for conducting workshops and training.


The session closed after a vote of thanks given by Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Secretary General, FICCI.


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