Regulation needs to ensure fair, timebound decisions for the media industry to grow

MUMBAI: For many years there has been a discussion on regulation. Should the media and entertainment industry have light touch regulation? Should there be a converged regulator? What is needed at the moment is that regulation must have a mechanism that ensures that decisions are handed out in a fair and time-bound manner? The decision could be about a film wanting clearance to shoot or it could be a channel wanting to change from a music to a movie one or a direct to home (DTH) operator wanting to offer a multiscreen facility. This would enable the service providers to focus on their core business instead of wasting time waiting for the required clearance or permission.

It would also help broadcasters, DTH operators, and other stakeholders if a media council was created which would help the industry speak with one voice. This council could speak to various ministries whether it is I&B, DoT, Department of Space and even the censor board. This way more formal and informal interactions would happen. Moreover, regulation should be about hand-holding and not restriction.

These points were made in a session titled ‘Let it Flow! Facilitating Business for the Creative Industries’ at FICCI Frames 2018. The speakers were Hinduja Group MD Ashok Mansukhani, Shemaroo Entertainment director Hiren Gada, Discovery South Asia VP, head ad sales, business head regional clusters Vikram Tanna and Kaleidoscope Entertainment founder Bobby Bedi.

Mansukhani made the point about the usefulness of a media council. He also noted that everywhere in the world and not just in India technology outstrips regulation. Any form of regulation must be a facilitator and not be restrictive. It is also important that regulation be technology agnostic. After all Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are here already. It is important that the industry converges to what the consumer wants. For instance, he noted that today nobody wants only linear TV. He gave the example of work his company is doing in creating a small tablet that can enable one to watch another TV channel. The issue, he said, is whether only regulation will help deal with technology challenges. He also said that it is important that stakeholders show a regulatory path forward.

The panellists also highlighted the need to persuade the regulator and government to communicate with each other. This is imperative as the media and entertainment industry is moving fast. It is easy to formulate regulation and then just stick it in a drawer. When an application is made it goes to the I&B Ministry whom may send it to the Department of Telecommunications who may send it to the Department of Space who may send it back to the I&B ministry. While this is fine a decision on the application should be made in a time-bound manner, the panellists noted.

Tanna noted that the point was also made that the government can act as a catalyst for fostering growth. The government can play a role around the content ecosystem and the example was given of the UP government which has worked in the area of the ease of doing business when it comes to shooting films in that state.

Gada noted that regulation could provide an impetus to help the film industry scale 10x. The film is a risky business and VC funding is needed. VCs are needed and a special category can be created. The importance of a single window clearance for shooting movie projects was also raised and the Film Producers Guild Of India has worked with various State Governments on this, he said.

He also noted that film isn’t a luxury category it is a mass entertainment. The taxation machinery can also be corrected which would ease challenges. he also dwelt on the threat of piracy saying that the big threat is between the film’s theatrical release and it being shown on television. The supply chain needs to be digitised. While Shemaroo has an anti-piracy team there is a limit to how much one company can do, he added.

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