#Frames2013: Text of speech by I&B secretary Uday Varma

15 Mar,2013

I am indeed very happy and delighted to be here like previous years.

 

FICCI FRAMES actually is one event in my opinion which perhaps is looked forward to by everybody in the media and entertainment industry. By Government also, because I think this is one platform, one forum where you get the best people from the industry and I think the level and quality of deliberation is of extremely high quality. And that provides us not only the inputs of the industry but also to a very large extent to the Government as well.

 

There’s a very interesting and famous book in Sanskrit, known as Panchtantra. It’s like Aesop’s Fables but much more comprehensive and perhaps much richer. This was created by a fellow known as Vishnu Sharma. And when he started writing this book, he started with one couplet and I would like to quote it here. It says (quoting in the Sanskrit). Most of you perhaps don’t know Sanskrit, and therefore whichever way I translate it you will have to accept it but I am very faithful. What he did was he invoked good people. In an enterprise which is going to be an extremely important enterprise and they were going to be very important in delivery. Perhaps you know that this fellow was given the task of educating four delinquent children of a king and you know how difficult it is to deal with delinquent people, unruly people and undisciplined people. So this was the task given to him. And this is what perhaps FICCI is also doing, FICCI FRAMES. And I took it in the most positive sense and I made a bold statement. This offers through a collection of narratives and through a stream of thoughts. One is to be able to find a way forward, in practical terms. Also, there is a general sense of direction taken.

 

But I think what is more important that we come out of these next … of deliberations is very substantial things and that is what is extremely critical. Meanwhile, we had all talked about digitization and we are all glad that it is happening. And it is happening because as Mr. Uday Shankar said, there was alignment, alignment within the industry first of all and also between the government and other stakeholders. And I think the argument of alignment is can be very challenging and I may refer back to it in my address. And that is perhaps one of the most important ingredient for any post – development from this sector that will be taken care. It was difficult task but we did it and we can feel very satisfied about it maybe a little bit proud also, a certain amount of pride we can take because this is something which has happened in record time and no country in the world has been able to do so and that too in the most smooth fashion. It happened quietly but it has happened very smoothly.

 

We must remember that this has happened without a single paisa intervention from the Government. There was no subsidy. Whole cost of operation was pulled off by the industry. And I think this is remarkable. This has not happened anywhere else. With regards to Phase II, I can report to you that the progress is quite satisfactory. More than 60% digitization has already taken place. There are 21cities which are working with more than 50% digitization, 10 cities more than 75% digitization. And it is only in 4 cities, 4 problem cities where at this point of time digitization is roughly around 30%.

 

I’m quite sure that with the help of all the stakeholders, the second phase of digitization should also be accomplished by 31st March. And if that is done, and I see no reason why it should not be done, the process of digitization of cable service in India would become virtually irreversible. And I think irrespective of mandate, irrespective of the deadlines, subsequent to 31st March, the process has to reach its logical conclusion and complete digitisation of cable service. So, we have been pursuing it, and I think all the stakeholders have been very helpful and very proactive and if there are any problems we need to see, we immediately look at them and we collectively tackle them and find solutions as far as those problems are concerned.

 

While in the process of digitization, the seeding process of the Set-Top box has happened very successfully, I think the more important dimensions of digitization and after – effect of digitization is yet to be realized fully. Unless there is complete addressability, the digitization process is incomplete. And I think we have very seriously worked towards it and a number of steps are being taken by the government. Also we recognize the process and it takes a slight time, a while to do that. But I think all the stakeholders will have to work towards it. The certain responsibilities which are cast upon all stakeholders must be carried out because unless we are able to have complete transparency in the system, have full transparency in subscriber data, that would actually address the aberrations of the business models.

 

And as Mr. Ronnie Screwvala was pointing out – in the next one or two years most of most of the aberrations should be addressed and we should have a far more healthy and more dynamic system based on real data and not on assumptions of approximate figures.

 

So the challenges as far as this discussion is concerned – I’ll quickly put them: Number 1 – We have to make sure that set-top box is of good Quality and certifications are made by MSOs, We have to provide roughly 16million set top boxes; 10 million have already be seeded, 6 million have to be seeded; if we take into account what is in stock and what is in pipeline. We have 6 million lying and I don’t think we’ll have a problem. But I think the bigger problem is between the broadcasters and MSOs I think that needs to be addressed. And since all the people associated to that process are here, I’ll request them to address this problem.

 

Also what is important is that the consumer understands what digitization is and what price he has to pay for the set-top box and the services – that is extremely crucial. The effective public awareness campaign is a must. And we already in one, it is already in place and we hope it gains momentum in the coming days. And it really becomes a very effective instrument of public awareness. And lastly the role of state governments is crucial because there are 15 state governments involved. And we know that it is seldom that Union and the State Governments seek to agree on any issue – that is what the situation is today. This becomes very crucial and a Role TRAI has to play the regulation of the right kind is put in place. I will not go into the detailsof TAM data,but I think it requires much better application of mind on the TV rating system.

 

A lot of discussion took place to my understanding, and in proper rating system of TV programs I would like to say that the option of the industry creating its own rating system is already there.And if there is a general consensus that the governments intervene in this matter, we maybe come out with guidelines that any rating agency should be following in terms of sample sizes, spread, several other dimensions and parameters I think that it is possible. But that is that there is general consensus that is coming in into these matters, there are lots of people coming to us and telling us that we must do something about it there are issue waiting in the parliament, industry stakeholders come and say that governments should be doing more than what they are doing now and at the same time there are perceptions in the industry who feel that the government should be staying away from this thing because it is kind of a supply of a service and a demand for that service and therefore it is between the supplier and the person who is the purveyor of that service. But I’m mentioning this deliberately so that if it is indeed perceived as serious threat to the growth of TV industry and to what our minister has referred to as somewhat corrosive discourse on the TV screens, I think something has to be done about it and some decisions taken in the short term. I’m quite aware the disappointment that the film industry has articulated after the Budget speech of the Finance Minister. It is true that in terms of the tax capital the film industry actually feels, rightly so, that they haven’t got a fair deal.

 

My ministry is with the film ministry. But the issue is how we go beyond the issues discussed. I have two suggestions to offer, one is to – and I have said also – the film industry and the gaming industry is to be seen as serious economic segment of the country. It is not nearly the glimmer and the glitch as Mr. Uday said in his speech. But a serious provider of employment and contributor too. And that is correct. Secondly the regime of general goods and taxes was to come into existence. It was to come into existence a year ago, it will take some time, it is unfinished, but I do believe it is the kind of industry and ministry to work together to make sure that is the kind of a not so fair deal that we have got so far from the film industry those issues are addressed right away so that when we have a new GST regime at least some of these issues are addressed.

 

What I am offering is that we are willing the world to the film industry to deliberate on and how we can build up a very strong case for a fair case for the industry to the new GST regime comes in place. As far as the 100 years of cinema is concerned its initiative by the state has been talked about we now give away the national film awards every year on the 3rd of May to commemorate 100 years of cinema and  also to pay a tribute to Dada Saheb Phalke. The national museum on cinema, one part of it– is almost about to be ready and we and will be ready in next few months. We have launched the national film heritage mission, the formal launching will also take place, which actually will make sure that the film heritage is well preserved and are restored and the conservation of film heritage takes place.

 

We want to make sure that nothing is lost…and we will facilitate the shooting in India by creating a board which will be used for film promotion and facilitation board so that people get that one window to go ahead and apply for permission by the producer, this is not only for the producer from outside the country butaldso domestic ones. On the FM radio we have done a meeting with the minister where we have some glitches because of TRAI recommendations which said that we could perhaps have more FM channels by reducing the spectrum requirement or inter spacing from 8ookilo hertz to 400kilohertz. But that had actually created a bit of a problem but that has been resolved. ECom has decided to go ahead with auctioning off 839 new FM channels to 295 cities, so it is my hope and am quite sure it should happen that in the next year we should be able to have close to 839 additional radio channels across the country. I think we can imagine to kind of impact it will have on the media industry once its close to 839 channels are launched and i think this will completely transform the industry in the country. I would now like to conclude that while  listening to other speakers and following FICCI Frames i heard things like talking about a 1000cr blockbuster, or having films like Life of Pi or Slumdog Millionaire being produced in India, and I think the KPMG report is talking about an encouraging kind of growth for the sector for next year and the years on for the next five years, I think this is perhaps the right opportunity to talk about this and my thought  is to make India the digital hub of entertainment not only interms of hardware in terms of teleports  but also interms of Digital production.  I think the task is difficult but I have no doubt in my mind that is neither impossible nor improbable the only thing is that we have to align our efforts align our thinking , and if the industry is able to do that we should be able to do this lots of people say that’s a risky proposition, and there are greats risks involved in the proposition, like in the film industry is considered to be a very risky, but I think risks must be takenand you must let me conclude with a poem that I find very stimulating but also very relevant and is titled only a one a person who risks is free……

 

I’m very fond of this , please allow me to read out this as only a person who risks is free to laugh is to risk appearing a fool, to weep is to risk appearing sentimental, to reach another is to risk involvement, to explore your ideas out before a crowd is a risk to their loss, as a lot of people don’t talk about their ideas because they think that someone will steal them , to love is to risk not being loved, to live is to risk dying, to believe is to risk despair to try is to risk failure but risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing, the people who risk nothing do nothing, have nothing , are nothing the people who risk nothing do nothing,  have nothing , are nothing, they may be award3ed by suffering and sorrow but they cannot…, run, feel, change grow, love , live, change by the attitudes they are slaves they have forfeited their freedom only a person who risks is free.

 

Thank you very much!

 

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