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Ficci Frames 2017: Challenges facing the M&E industry

Pankaj Patel, President, Ficci and CMD, Cadila Healthcare,and Uday Shankar, Chairman, Ficci M&E Committee and Chairman and CEO, Star India, highlight the problems facing the media and entertainment industry

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | March 22, 2017

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Themed ‘Digital: Divide or dividend,’ the 18th edition of Ficci Frames began by lighting of the lamp with Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandez along with dignitaries on dais. It was followed by the welcome address by Pankaj R Patel, President, Ficci and Chairman and Managing Director, Cadila Healthcare.

Patel touched upon how the media and entertainment (M&E) industry grew at nine per cent last year despite demonetisation. Particularly speaking about digital, Patel said that today social media is used a lot – be it for expressing opinions or for consuming video content. With the entry of 4G, the penetration of internet has further boosted the digital medium, and hence there is huge potential in the space.

He added, “As we speak about the potential of digital media, how we maximise this new media in terms of monetisation, outreach and utility is the question? For this we need a clear cut policy framework iterating content ownership laws, and infrastructure development in telecom technologies with high-speed internet. The user monitoring system could graduate into a full-fledged rating agency. A transformation towards subscription on the part of the consumer is already seen. That is why the theme of the Ficci Frames has been thoughtfully titled – Digital: Divide or dividend.”

Patel emphasised the need of the hour to find a balance between the content platform and monetisation. There has to be a deliberation between industry, government and international partners.

Some of the associations that contributed to the growth of the M&E industry in 2016 include;

  • Dentsu Aegis Network’s acquisition of Perfect Relations
  • Kidzania’s plans to invest Rs 100 crore in South India
  • Vice Media LLC, the US-based digital media and broadcasting company has partnered with the Times Group for a new bureau and production hub in Mumbai
  • Global video streaming giant Netflix has entered India

These are only few developments that have taken place in the last one year, which has caused the industry to grow at nine per cent despite falling a few points post demonetisation. Highlighting the theme of the year, Uday Shankar, Chairman, Ficci Media and Entertainment Committee and Chairman and CEO, Star India, took centre stage.

Uday Shankar at Ficci 2017 Uday Shankar at Ficci 2017

He pointed to a disturbing trend. He said, “I am concerned if the Indian creative mind is in a position to respond to the pace of technological change with an equally rapid evolution in its creativity. The key reason for this is of course the censorship that we all have to put up with. As the world gets bolder, our censor authorities seem to be getting more and more conservative. I understand that in 2015-16 the censor board refused certification to 77 movies. This number was 47 in 2014-15 and only 23 in the year before. The refrain seems to be -- I don’t like the legend or the myth on which your story is based, so I will burn down your sets. I don’t like a character, so I will not let you release your film. If you say you are going to do a show of busting fake god men and gangsters, there is pre-emptive action. And what is becoming alarming now is that sometimes even the forums that you would seek redressal at are more inclined to bless the street side censorship than speak for the freedom of expression.”

“We seem to be following the script that Hollywood had written almost 100 years ago. In the early part of the 20th century, Hollywood had decided to self-regulate itself. It adopted a production code and insisted on its enforcement for almost 25 years,” Shankar said adding, “The code covered the use of profanity like hell and damn, any suggestive nudity, wilful offense of any nation, race or creed and any ridicule of the clergy among other things.”

Shankar further raised a question, “Will digital play the same role for this generation and the country – the role of a progressive challenger, the role of providing a bigger canvas to creativity and creating a space for dissenting points of view.” This new medium has the ability to truly democratise broadcasting and content creation.

He concluded, “It offers the creative community the rare opportunity to rethink from scratch their art and how it is communicated. Only when modern technology and contemporary creativity truly come together, will we create a compelling and powerful media and entertainment offering; that we can call the digital dividend?”

Canada being the partner country for Ficci Frames 2017 had Nadir Patel, High Commissioner for Canada to India, and John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, Canada, as the guests of honour. They threw light on how the recent Indo-Canadian partnership has helped the film industry grow and smoothen operations in both the countries.

Sudhanshu Pandey, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India spoke about how the ministry is taking various initiatives to overcome some of the problems Shankar highlighted.

Ajay Mittal, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting elaborated on the rapid internet growth and penetration. Mittal promised to work with the industry to create a platform so that the creative geniuses are supported. He also mentioned about giving special attention to creation of kids content.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Chairman, Ficci Film Forum, Director and Founder, Romp thanked everyone for their support and the initiatives the industry has taken for its growth. Dr A Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI moderated the session.

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