3-day informational event fulfils tryst with destiny, almost!

15 Mar,2013

Actor and Convenor, FICCI MEBC East Prosenjit Chatterjee, Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, FICCI M&E chair Uday Shankar and co-chair Karan Johar, I&B secretary Uday Varma and Ronnie Screwvala, MD, Disney UTV


By Johnson Napier


If there was ever a platform that was going to foretell the future that lay ahead for the M&E industry in a manner that was befitting, it had to be at the FICCI-Frames 2013. After an invigorating, insightful, challenging and forward-looking three days of deliberations, the biggest informational event for the M&E industry in India came to an elaborate end yesterday.


While the day began with a series of interesting sessions that centred around topics like the economics of running a sports business, long versus short form of content consumption, skills in the M&E sector, unleashing the power of data, single window clearance for films, reinventing regional media and electronic news media among others, an equally power-packed panel of speakers made sure that the delegates had a lot to take away as learnings from the sessions.


Perhaps the mood that was prevalent over the entire three-day event at the venue was summed up at the valedictory session on day 3 at FICCI-Frames. The session once again saw a line-up of dignitaries who had words of wisdom and promises to make to the gathering.


Union I&B Minister Manish Tewari was not present at the event but shared a recorded message with the audience. Affirmed the minister, “The I&B ministry exercises various limits – we are licensors, we are players and stakeholders and are also regulators… so it’s a mixed bag of duty for us. But it’s incumbent upon the government to try and play the role of a facilitator and enabler in order to ensure the growth of this sector takes place at a more rapid pace than what it has witnessed over the past few years.”


Highlighting his observations over the entire digitization exercise and the demand to do away with the hike in duty on STBs the minister said, “In the first phase we went through a digitization process in the four metros and what was observed was that the STBs are important from also a regional point of view – South East Asia. In order to give a fillip to the Indian manufacturers the Union Finance Minister therefore decided to hike the duty from 5 to 10 percent. So while a rollback is not possible we should see it in the perspective that we as a country also have a duty towards seeing that the other sectors are also benefited and a robust mechanism be established. To achieve success in the second phase across 38 cities all the players, stakeholders and MSOs and LCOs have to come together and make it a reality.”


Adding further Mr Tewari said, “The other issue that had been highlighted was the issue of pricing of talent and that is something I feel has to be handled between the private-public players jointly. While the government has its own institute for providing training and other skill-sets it will take the combined efforts from the private sector to make that dream a reality.”


Sounding a word of caution to the industry, Mr Tewari said that where the issue of freedom of speech and expression was concerned, it is something that is guaranteed by the Constitution but it also carries certain restrictions. “The challenge is to see how we can find the golden mean between liberty and the reasonable caveats that have been imposed by the Constitution. If you ask me the freedom of speech and expression does include the right to offend but we also need to ask ourselves the question – what about the remedy? As we unfold the debate further, it is worth that the industry also introspect that there is a distinction between a debate that is honest, candid and something which can be corrosive to the national spirit.”


Next it was the turn of Ronnie Screwvala, MD, Disney UTV to put forward his predictions as he presented the keynote address. “Some of the good things that have happened in the recent past is the onset of digitisation that has had a huge impact on us. But I think we should hold on to popping the champagne as it will be another 2-3 years before the monetisation from this exercise comes about. So while we have made the investments, the consumer doesn’t necessarily reflect them. But it’s good news that after 20 years of waiting the move has finally come to fruition,” said Mr Screwvala.


Adding further he said, “Where new media is concerned there is a lot to celebrate about, but unfortunately we have not been able to monetize it. The fact that we are going to be a 150-200 million smartphones market in less than two years, and the fact that large digital and mobile players look at this market as the second or third in the world is phenomenal. There is a need to take this growth further.”


According to Mr Screwvala the future will belong to dominance from a single screen. “We all talk about the second-television household but that will become irrelevant as it is going to be our personal screen. We will be surprised to see how consumers from all corners of India wake up to using mobile as their primary source for entertainment. The issue is going to be of bandwidth and pricing,” asserted Mr Screwvala.


Taking over from Mr Screwvala, Uday Verma, Secretary, I&B Ministry began by thanking the industry and the stakeholders for the response that was elicited for the digitization exercise. He said, “The digitization exercise has come about to be because of the alignment of the industry and the stakeholders. It was a difficult task but we are satisfied with what we have managed to achieve. It is something that has happened in a record time and has happened in a smooth manner. Also, it is something that has happened with no intervention from the government where cost is concerned; it has all been borne by the industry.”


“Where Phase 2 is concerned the progress has been satisfactory with more than 60 per cent conversion having already taken place. There are 21 cities that have reported more than 50 percent digitization and about 10 cities have reported more than 75 percent digitization. There are just four cities that have been posing problems with a conversion rate hovering around 30 percent,” added Mr Verma.


On the issue of measurement, My Verma said that the option of the industry making its own rating system is already there and the IBF is working hard towards making it a reality. “If there is a consensus that the government should intervene in this matter in terms of guidelines we can do so for the benefit of the industry.”


Mr Uday Shankar, chairman of FICCI Frames summed up the proceedings by announcing the rollout of a Centre for Regulatory Excellence in collaboration with the industry. “This won’t be limited just to M&E but the entire corporate sector. It will also act as a facilitator in aligning corporate India’s objective with that of the goals of the government and policy establishments. We hope we receive active participation from all quarters.”


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