M&E industry pins hopes on I&B Minister Anurag Thakur, IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to free it from shackles of bureaucratic overregulation

Both the digital and broadcasting sectors need to be freed from the shackles of excessive government control. Can the new ministers, who have an industry-friendly image, alleviate the industry's pain and put it back on the growth track?

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M&E industry pins hopes on I&B Minister Anurag Thakur, IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to free it from shackles of bureaucratic overregulation

Anurag Thakur and Ashwini Vaishnaw

After the largest-ever reshuffle and new inductions in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, the struggling media and entertainment industry, which is one of the largest job providers, has got Anurag Thakur as Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Minister and Ashwini Vaishnaw as Information Technology (IT) and Communications Minister.

The content part of the media industry falls under I&B Ministry while the Ministry of Communications' Department of Telecommunications is responsible for the distribution part. Except OTT, all other online media including social media intermediaries fall under IT Ministry.

A four-time MP from Himachal Pradesh, Thakur has been the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports and Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs since 2019. He continues to hold the Youth Affairs and Sports portfolio along with Information and Broadcasting.

On the other hand, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha, is a newcomer and has been given charge of the Electronics and Information Technology, and Communications ministries along with Railways. An MBA from Wharton School, Pennysylvania University, and MTech from IIT Kanpur, he has held leadership roles across major global companies such as General Electric and Siemens.

BestMediaInfo lists the most critical issues seeking immediate attention with a focused approach to resurrect the media and entertainment sector, which is projected to increase at a CAGR of 13.5% from 2019 to 2024 and estimated to reach US$43.93 billion (approx Rs 330,000 crore) by 2024.

  1. The first and foremost task at hand for Thakur is to reinstate the trust in television ratings, which eroded with the TRP scam busted by Mumbai Police in October last year followed by damaging WhatsApp chats between Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and former BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta. His predecessor Prakash Javadekar formed a TRP committee headed by Prasar Bharti CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, who submitted the report within the given time frame. But the ministry has been sitting on that report for the last six months with no visible action in this direction, which is hurting the broadcasters.
  2. Even more critical is to resume the television ratings of news channels, which were suspended after Mumbai Police busted the TRP scam. While BARC India is ready with the software to roll out ratings for the news genre on a four-week rolling average basis, the industry is waiting for the ministry’s nod for the rollout. Any further delay is hurting news television players every passing day.
  3. The new FDI rules for online news platforms and ambiguity in the new IT Rules have forced foreign-owned OTT players Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLiv to drop the live feed of news channels from their platforms. The players don’t want to fall under the definition of aggregator or intermediary for carrying the live feeds of news channels. Both the ministries must give them clarity on this.
  4. The new IT Rules, 2021, is another area I&B and IT ministers need to focus upon. There are a lot of ambiguities in the rules and no one is bothering to clarify them to the media industry. Both the ministers will have to ensure the new IT rules are unambiguous and implemented smoothly in order to restore the confidence among all the stakeholders.
  5. To be governed by two separate ministries (I&B and DoT) is hampering the growth of the broadcast industry. Broadcasters' biggest pain point is the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s new tariff order, which has been challenged by broadcasters in various courts. TRAI’s attempt to regulate the pricing of channels has been the bone of contention ever since NTO was introduced. The broadcast sector is looking up to both the ministers to resolve the issue for orderly growth.

Anurag Thakur and Ashwini Vaishnaw