FICCI Frames 2008 began on a strong note despite Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, Minister for Information & Broadcasting, not being able to make it for the inaugural session. Yash Chopra, Chairman, FICCI Frames and Yashraj Films, Kunal Dasgupta, Co-Chairman, FICCI Frames, and CEO, Multiscreen Media, highlighted several challenges and opportunities for the media and entertainment industry. And yes, the issue of ratings system cropped up again.
Dasgupta informed the gathering that the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) was in the process of launching a National Television Ratings System, which would solve the concerns that the present ratings systems posed. Asha Swarup, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting, took a cue from here, and one of the points she made was that a new ratings system would be needed that was beneficial for the industry. She said, “We have been concerned with the TAM ratings for a while now. We are worried about the role that ratings are playing in creating content. We are happy that IBF ratings have come in the picture, and the sooner these are in place, the better it would be.”
Do not create another ‘Inspector Raj’
On the sidelines of the conference, addressing a gathering of journalists, Swarup said that the I&B Ministry was in the process of taking various actions to curb piracy in the country, which included urging state governments to actively curb the menace. She assured that the various TRAI recommendations on this subject had already been taken into consideration. The I&B Ministry is busy with several initiatives, and had recently launched the National Museum of Moving Pictures in Mumbai. Swarup informed that a budget of Rs 60 crore had been kept aside for this project.
She further said that one of the clear agendas of the I&B Ministry was digitisation of television and that several steps were being taken to expedite the advent of HITS, CAS and IPTV. Swarup added that the television industry at present was looking at only one section of the audience, whereas the need of the hour was to not just create content for all consumer segments in India, but also content that was relevant to international audiences.
She stressed that producers should pay attention to kids’ content and urged the fraternity to be aware and conscious enough not to create another ‘Inspector Raj’.
Nine years of FICCI Frames
In its ninth year now, FICCI Frames 2008 also set the stage for further discussions on issues such as piracy and the need to reach out to international audiences. Yash Chopra remarked that the Indian film industry had faced an unprecedented growth, and with innovative marketing, the industry would be able to sustain that growth. Chopra added, “New technologies, ideas, young and brilliant filmmakers are here to take the industry forward. It’s a revolution, I would say, that has happened in the industry today, that we are making films all over the world. It’s a challenge to enter more and more countries and expand our reach even further in countries like Japan, China, and Indonesia, among others. We need to share our business with Pakistan, too, and I urge the Government to make policies that would help the two countries join hands in this regard.”
Given the virulent protests against movies like ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, ‘Parzania’, ‘Fanaa’, etc., Chopra remarked, “Once a film is passed by the Censor Board, I don’t think anybody in the world has the right to ban the film. In case of any disputes or in the need to challenge the Censor Board’s decision, one should take the route of the judiciary in India.”
The scourge of piracy
Commenting on the serious issue of piracy, Swarup said, “Piracy has been hampering the rapid growth of the entertainment business. The only way to tackle this is to ensure tight scrutiny from the supply side. Simultaneous or quick release on the Internet or home video could be an alternative to curbing piracy. We have already seen how effective this strategy has been with the distribution pattern of movies like ‘Jab We Met’.”
Being a television specialist, Dasgupta stuck to his domain and took the audience through major changes that the industry had witnessed over a period of one year. He said, “What is happening in the industry is that the professionals are becoming entrepreneurs and are setting up ventures in various fields like digital distribution, content creation, and so on.”
He pointed out that with ‘Jab We Met’, the industry saw a paradigm shift in distribution. “Releasing ‘Jab We Met’ in the home video circuit close on heels of the theatre release of the film was phenomenal. With this Moser Baer managed to reduce piracy, earned more revenues as they knew that people would want to watch the movie in theatres even if the CDs or DVDs were available in the market, thus capturing those set of audiences that prefer watching movies at home,” explained Dasgupta.
Of content and distribution
Commenting on the challenges that the television industry faced, he remarked that when “content is king, distribution has to be God”. According to him, “Distribution remains a challenge for us with restricted price bands and with cable operators being very slow in upgrading their systems. When it comes to coping with the market demand, the key lies in new platforms such as DTH and CAS. But I have my doubts on how effective these platforms would be. With already over 400 channels having being launched and quite a few in the pipeline, distribution of content would get only tougher.”
Dasgupta also pointed out that India’s media and entertainment industry lacked companies of big scale in terms of both operations and reach. “Except for one or two in the industry, there is nobody of a really big size and scale to stand globally and get recognised.” On the technology front, Dasgupta said that going multi-screen with high-definition was key. He predicted that India could have its first high-definition channel broadcast channel in 12 months’ time.
Sports was yet another domain that was discussed at length at the inaugural session. According to Dasgupta, “Sports has huge potential, especially when leagues have been launched, and this will see a lot more money being pumped into it. e-Sports is an area that would be seen in India a lot with gamers competing live on broadcast with live commentary.”