Full report of Assocham ‘focus’ on M&E

07 May,2012

By Shruti Pushkarna

 

Assocham organized the 6th annual summit on entertainment and media, Focus 2012, inNew Delhion May 4 where the topic in focus was Digitization for Inclusive Growth. The event began with a keynote address by the Chairman of Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, who came down heavily on the media once again, in his address.

 

Justice Katju referred to the role played by the European media between the 17th and 19th century. He talked about the sacrifices made by writers like Voltaire, Rousseau and Thomas Paine to uplift the society and help it convert from a feudal state to a modern society. He criticised the Indian media for promoting superstition in form of cheap astrology shows on news television channels all day instead of promoting rational and scientific ideas. He said: “The function of the media is to uplift the intellectual levels of citizens, but our media instead has stooped down to the level of Indians, of which 90 per cent are fools.” He said that in the race for TRPs, the television channels focus on entertainment which constitutes 90 per cent of programming and leaves only 10 per cent room for real issues to be telecast.

 

Justice Katju urged media professionals to play a socially responsible role at a time whenIndia, likeEuropein the 17th century, is going through a transitional phase. He emphasized on the need to promote rational ideas in this period of transition in Indian history. He also emphasized on the need for regulation as opposed to self regulation. He said, “I am the greatest fighter for freedom for press and that’s why I am not recommending control but regulation. In control, there is no freedom but in regulation there is reasonable restriction in the public interest.”

 

Self regulation is no regulation, he added: “You cannot have absolute freedom to harm society. There is need for regulation, and this regulation cannot be from the government, it has to be from an independent regulatory authority which has penal powers.”

 

 

Broadcasting & Digitization: India Goes Digital- Challenges & Way Forward

The session on broadcasting and digitization was chaired by Supriya Sahu, Joint Secretary (Broadband & Policy), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The session was moderated by Preet Dhupar, Director, BBC World,India. The panelists included Anthony D’Silva, Group CEO, Sun Group; Hemant Upadhyay, Advisor, VOICE; Jehangir S Pocha, CEO, INX News; Roop Sharma, President, COFI; Vishal Mahajan, Sr. Director, Yes Bank; Himanshu Patel, COO Videocon D2H; Ashok Mansukhani, President, MSO Alliance; Joy Chakraborthy, CEO, TV Today Network; Pulak Bagchi, VP, Star India and SM Khan, DG, DD News.

 

During the discussion, Ms Sahu said that the work on digitization, especially Phase 1, which looks at the four metros, was on track and with help from all stakeholders the government should be able to push digitization to happen in time. She defended the TRAI tariff order: “It is a win-win situation for every stakeholder. The clear winner, of course, is the consumer.” She said that the cities were almost ready for digitization, the government had made good progress as far as procurement of set top boxes (STBs) is concerned and the only area that needs attention is the seeding of these boxes. She agreed that for the target date to be achieved, around 20-25 lakh STBs have to be seeded and that makes it 1 lakh STBs to be seeded every day.

 

 

Representing the MSO Alliance, Mr Mansukhani congratulated the government on taking up the challenge of digitization. He agreed that there were some concerns and issues on which they will seek clarification from the TRAI. He reiterated the commitment to digitization on part of MSOs and urged newspapers and business channels to clearly present all points of view to the debate on digitization.

 

Ms Roop Sharma, President, COFI expressed hers and the cable operators’ disappointment at order issued by TRAI. She claimed that the order was unfair to LCOs and will result in putting them out of business: “Regulator wants to be the controller of the industry…the role of the regulator is very bad. We are all for digitization, but we are unhappy with the revenue share that has been decided in the order.” She added that 60 days are too less to meet the challenges of digitization and it is unlikely that the sunset date for Phase 1 is achievable.

 

Jehangir Pocha, CEO INX News shared the plight of the broadcasters with the panelists on the issue of carriage fee. He said that a channel like Times Now had to pay a carriage fee of Rs50-55 crore to reach the viewers. He said: “I can’t applaud this order. Those who applaud this regulation perhaps benefit from it. It is the first time in the history ofIndiathat carriage fee is legalized, institutionalized and not regulated.” He said that the government claims to have taken the views of all stakeholders involved but their views were taken only in theory and not in spirit.

 

The TRAI in its recommendations stated: “Keeping in view the fact that substantial investment for implementation of Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems is made by the MSO and the cost involved in carriage of channels, the Authority has decided that every MSO may fix the Carriage Fee.” But Mr Pocha argued that why should a channel pay for MSO investment. He said he would like the government to issue a white paper that looks at the earnings of all players.

 

Sun Group CEO Anthony D’Silva said that the need of the hour is to get down to the nitty-gritties: “The lessons learnt from DTH are applicable to any other digital system. We need to look at how the subscriber management systems will work, what are the service parameters and who’ll set up the call centres because that involves huge costs.” He added that the government needs to look at  digitization as any other infrastructure project and support it by whatever means, whether its tax holiday or any other subsidies.

 

Pulak Bagchi, VP, Star India expressed a need to recognize the challenge government and the regulator had in thinking through the entire process of digitization and the fact that it’s difficult to make everyone happy. He said: “Government and regulator are out there to protect the public interest and not to add to company bottom lines. We entrepreneurs need to work out our own course.”

 

Responding to the issues voiced by the various panelists, Ms Sahu said: “All concerns are genuine and we would try and address them as well as we can but please read the fine print to clarify some of the concerns.” As for cable operators, she said that if cable operators don’t move to digitization fast enough, they will be wiped out by competition from DTH.

 

 

Films, Animation and VFX: Digital Cinema- Present and Future

The session was moderated by Karan Ahluwalia, Executive VP, Yes Bank and the panelists included, Ramesh Meer, CEO The FX Factory; Sunaman Sood, Co-founder, Director, Acendo Capital Advisors; Siddhartha M Jain, Producer@iRock; Vishnu Patel, CEO-Special projects, UFO Moviez and Manoj Srivastava, CEO, Enternainmentt Society of Goa.

 

Siddhartha M Jain of iRock started the discussion by talking about the paradigm shift occurring in cinema: “Low budget films without stars which used to be niche earlier are picking up. We’ve had hits like Ragini MMS and Vicky Donor. So there is huge investor appetite, provided you have the right content. The key lies in keeping the budgets low and using the latest technology.” He added that there is also a huge power shift happening from Bollywood movies to movies outside Hindi cinema.

 

Sunaman Sood said that producers have now begun to treat regional cinema with some seriousness, realising its potential. But Manoj Srivastava added that there is no platform or agency in the country that promotes regional cinema well enough.

 

Speaking of digitization’s benefits to cinema, Vishnu Patel said that digital technology has helped revive the industry which was otherwise on a decline. He said that regional cinema has also benefitted from digital technology because digitization has cut down the distribution cost in terms of prints. Now regional film producers can distribute their films better without having to worry about prints’ costs.

 

 

Print Media: Challenges and Opportunities in Digital Age

The session was chaired by Suprio Guha Thakurta, MD, The Economist Group India. The session was moderated by Vikas Mehta, VP & Executive Business Director, JWT Delhi. The panelists included, Sukumar Ranganathan, Editor, Mint; Vandana Das, President, DDB Mudra;Sudha Sarin,MD, Ipan Hill & Knowlton and Raghav Subramanian, COO, Lintas Initiative Media.

 

Sukumar Ranganathan initiated the debate by making a strong point that print is here to stay: “We often look at the western trends to decide the future of print in the country but we forget that the dynamics of the western market are very different from the Indian market.” He said that Mint has never defined itself as a newspaper; rather it looks at itself as a ‘newsroom’. Talking about integration of content, he said: “We update a story online as soon as it breaks. We also use social media to amplify the news. And in the paper, we value add with analysis and so on. I think integration is key to what a newspaper needs to do to survive in a digital area.”

 

Suprio Guha Thakurta echoed Mr Ranganathan’s views but he also emphasized on the fact that content for every platform needs to be looked at differently: “You can’t just cut and paste from print to online or any other device.” He added that The Economist, which at present has about 85 per cent of subscriptions from print, aims at converting these into at least 50 per cent in digital in the next two years.

 

Raghav Subramanian said: “It’s not that print is going to go away but it’s being increasingly threatened by digitization. Print is slow as a medium and now with news all over the place, the tangible paper is eroding in terms of the first choice for the younger generation.”

 

Concluding the debate, all panelists agreed on the need to integrate content across different media to reach out to consumers/viewers/readers at different touch points.

 

 

Radio and Music: New Avenues for Revenue/ Social Media & Gaming: Creating New Markets

The last two sessions on radio and gaming were merged into one discussion. The session was moderated by Uday Chawla, Secretary General, AROI and the panelists included, Anand Raj, Head- Non Traditional Revenue, Red FM; Geetanshu Anand, Head- Content, Mystica Music; Pallab Mitram Head- Consumer VAS, Tata Teleservices; Deepak Abbot, Head- Product, Zapak Digital Entertainment Pvt Ltd; Nikunj Jain, CEO, Inoxapps; Anshu Mor, Lead Entertainment & Media, Microsoft; CP Singh, CTO, Possible Worldwide; Akhilesh Saurikhia, Consultant, Department of Electronic and IT, Govt of India and Viraj Malik, CEO & MD, PK Online Ventures Pvt Ltd.

 

Anand Raj of Red FM talked about alternate revenue avenues that radio stations can look at. He said that audio production is an unorganized market right now and if radio stations start looking at doing audio productions in-house, there is huge potential for revenues. He also pointed out initiative like the Mahabharata or Ramayana productions done by Fever and how radio stations can look at making money by selling productions like these to VAS mobile operators. Another area that radio stations haven’t exploited properly he said was social media. He said that radio can look at building communities on social media for commerce.

 

Geetanshu Anand of Mystica Music said: “There is no lack of avenues for revenues; all we need to do is fill up the loopholes for revenues.” Radio industry, she said, plays a crucial role in promotion of music but when it comes to rights sharing then both radio and music companies get selfish and each wants a larger pie. She said that the need for the hour was to review the statutory licenses. She also said that it is important for radio to start promoting non-film music alongside film music.

 

Talking about gaming and creating new markets for it, Anshu Mor of Microsoft said: “It’s important for us as an industry to change the concept of gaming and how we look at gaming.” He added that social media provides with an opportunity to promote the ‘Brand Me’ and hence plays a huge role in marketing.

 

Viraj Malik added that mobile gaming is on a rise and will turn into a larger opportunity inIndiabecause mobile is fairly big in terms of reach and affordability. And this creates a huge opportunity for content and app developers, he said.

 

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