The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Italian Ministry of Communications have made it clear that the focus on the media and entertainment (M&E) industry is crucial to both the governments. Outlining the policy of the Indian government for the industry, I&B Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi enumerated five key focus areas in 2007 and other initiatives which are in the pipeline.
A five-point agenda
Inaugurating FICCI FRAMES 2007 in Mumbai on Monday, Dasmunshi outlined his vision for the M&E industry in a five-point agenda. “Though my ministry takes the lead for participation in film festivals and international markets, I would request the industry once again to seriously consider forming an export promotion council so that the benefits available under different such schemes can be availed of by this industry as well,” the minister said.
Some of the other areas that the government will be focussing on include the anti-piracy issue. “The I&B Ministry would be taking up these issues in consultation with the Ministry of Human Resources Development, which is the nodal ministry for copyright matters,” said the minister.
Assuring every legislative support to the industry, the minister said the government was considering bringing about some amendments to the Cinematograph Act of 1952. “The draft Bill would be ready shortly,” he added. He further informed that he had already taken up with the Ministry of Finance the recommendations for tax concessions and fiscal other benefits for the digital cinema sector he had received from the industry stakeholders. “I am happy to announce that the budget 2008 covers the benefits for digital cinema and has announced a project scheme with a concessional customs duty rate of 7.5 percent,” Dasmunshi said.
Another key area that comes under the priority list is that of co-productions of films. An agreement in this regard was signed with Italy way back in May 2005 and another one was inked with Germany on February 17, 2007. The minister informed that the next on the radar was France and that already his ministry was negotiating with the French authorities for re-working the existing protocol signed in 1985 and there were other co-production deals in the pipeline as well.
The minister has also announced some other initiatives such as for NFDC, animation and children’s films among others. “In our attempt to bring Indian cinema to the world stage, a special focus has been created for the next Cannes Film Festival. As an interesting coincidence, it is the 60th anniversary of the Festival and India is in her 60th year of Independence. Cannes will be showcasing an ‘India Focus’ selection of films over two days in the Cinema of the World section,” Dasmunshi said. The National Films Development Corporation (NFDC) would be leading the India spotlight in the producer’s network and the India pavilion at Cannes would be organised in association with the Confederation of Indian Industries. “The Cannes Market section has also proposed India to be a partner country,” Dasmunshi said.
Another initiative would be in the making of films on the Freedom movement. To encourage such movies, the government has already decided to fund such movies. Not just that the government has also formed a committee to choose the filmmakers, which the minster said would be without any government interference.
The minister also divulged the government’s intention to lay emphasis on content for children’s entertainment. “The CEO of Walt Disney was here recently. They are coming to India in a big way and I welcome them, but at the same time, there should be Indian content also for children. We are very clear on our emphasis on animation and children’s films,” said Dasmunshi.
On another note, he claimed that the forthcoming broadcast legislation was very progressive in nature, and that the M&E industry shouldn’t worry about it at all. Reacting to a statement made at the forum about the government over regulating and the mandatory telecast norm for cricket and other major sports events, he said, “I know I am seen as a monopolistic but I really am not. There would be legislations but we are in a democracy and the government will always respond for democratic demands. That is how every nation functions. I only request the industry to see our view and cooperate with us.”
Expecting a bright future for the domestic M&E industry, he said the industry would surpass the projected figure of Rs 1 trillion mark by 2011. He also spoke about India already being a global player and that the government would do all that it could to support the industry.
Dasmunshi’s New Focus Areas
1. Formation of an Export Promotion Council
2. Focus on anti-piracy laws
3. Amendment of the Cinematograph Act of 1958
4. Extending tax concessions and fiscal benefits to the digital cinema industry
5. Roping in France to enter into a co-production agreement with Indian film industry
6. Focus on NFDC
7. Focussing on Animation and Children’s Films content.
The Italian Connection
An awaited speaker in the morning session was the Italian Minister of Communications Paolo Gentiloni, who emphasised on the need for further cementing the bilateral relations between the two nations. “This is the first year that Frames has a partner country and we are very happy that they have chosen us. We are also happy that in the second edition of the Rome Film Festival, India would be our partner country.”
Italy is clear that 2007 will see focus on India, and Gentiloni and opined that one reason for this is due to the mutual respect that two countries have for each other and some of the similarities in the two industries.
Gentiloni said, “Communication and technology is on the growth path in Italy as well, as so is the Italian communications industry even as the growth numbers are not as high as that of India. We too have been early movers to higher end technologies and are facing the digital challenge today.
“We are clear on some of our focus areas in the audio-visual division and we are going to take maximum advantage of being the world’s biggest film industry. We believe that there is much that India and Italy can do together from locales for shooting, artists, exchange of expertise and technology and many others,” said Gentiloni.
Gentiloni also spoke about India going global and that how that was where Italy too is. The going global aspect was also highlighted by Secretary, I&B secretary SK Arora. “I’d like to congratulate the industry for gaining such a global reach. In regard to our policies, we believe that the consumer is the king, and the public is at the centre of the industry. We are ensuring that there is adequate choice and competition for the consumer. Secondly, we’d like to encourage investments for technology upgrade. Given the country’s demography, we’ve the challenge of a mass audience and large volumes of consumers with huge households currently. Thirdly, we’d like to encourage competition and new platforms. Technological advancement is increasing as convergence is also taking place,” Arora said.
Senior government officials also made it clear that the M&E industry was on the right track and that necessary steps would be taken to take it to level next.