The fourth Indian Magazine Congress got off to a promising start in Mumbai on September 22. Sushma Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, addressed various issues concerning the magazine industry and said that the Government was in process of taking certain decisions that would benefit the industry. The two-day Indian Magazine Congress is being organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in association with WWM, Worldwide Media. exchange4media Group (exchange4media.com, Pitch and impact) and Business Standard are the media partners.
Setting the tone for the Congress, Maheshwer Peri, President, AIM and Publisher, Outlook Group, called for a collaboration of industry leaders to facilitate changes in many aspects of the magazine industry.
The recent move of the I&B Ministry to open up the industry by allowing 26 per cent of FDI in news and current affairs has raised the expectations of media owners in the magazine space. And the onus is now on members of AIM to further take up the matter with the Government to enable further liberalisation of policies. Peri was optimistic that the issues causing concern for Indian players would be resolved as the Government had shown signs of taking the demands of the industry seriously.
Peri referred to the growing interest of international players in the Indian market. Explaining the market dynamics of the magazine business in India, Peri said that returns on investment might be uncertain, but the capital investment was something that always remained safe, thus attracting a lot more business in the space.
Commenting on readership surveys, he said, “We have a mechanism and we should back it. If we don’t, then it is our loss.”
Moving on to other areas of concern, Peri spoke about monitoring the integrity of publications, adopting to newer techniques of distribution, catering to the critical mass, and taking the relationship with the I&B to next level.
Government as facilitator of change
Peri’s opening address was followed by a keynote address by Sushma Singh. Speaking on behalf of the I&B Ministry, Singh was very vocal about the Government’s intention to become ‘facilitator of change’ in many areas that concerned the print industry. She started off her keynote address by referring to the growth of India’s media and entertainment sector, which has outperformed the economic growth.
Stating that Government had been the initiator in opening up the industry for foreign magazines, Singh said. “The 26 per cent FDI for news and current affairs magazines is an indication towards the Government’s intentions to allow international players in the market.”
“This has facilitated the entry of foreign players in the Indian market via joint ventures. However, their entry has been subject to conditions such as 51 per cent stake should be with the Indian counterparts, and also from the content point of view, the charge had to be from Indian officials and not foreign officials.”
Regarding permissions being granted to new players (both national and international), she informed, “Till date, 15 international proposals in news and current affairs have been approved, and about 106 Indian publishing houses have been given the green signal to launch their magazines in India.”
Singh’s keynote address was followed by an interactive session with Pradeep Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director, CyberMedia. Gupta wondered on the possibility of hike in FDI, which is currently restricted to 26 per cent. Responding to Gupta’s query, Singh said, “I don’t see this happening in the near future. The industry would always want to negotiate, but as of now, we are maintaining the ceiling of 26 per cent in FDI.”
Meanwhile, there have been several cases lying with the Government where publishing houses have registered with the RNI but failed to take concrete steps post-registration. Commenting on this, Singh said, “Such cases need to be weaved out. We are in the process of taking up this issue for discussion, and soon some decisions would be taken.”
Hike in DAVP ad rates
Meanwhile, the outcome of the interactive session between media owners and Singh was something to look out for. Several questions were raised about DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) advertising rates, which were not sufficient enough for media houses. Singh informed that the Government intended to hike the DAVP rates. However, she didn’t give a date for that.
DAVP is the key nodal agency of the Indian Government advertising, including public sector undertakings and autonomous bodies. As per the advertisement policy of 2006, empanelled newspapers get Government advertisements as per their circulation figures for three years.
As is known, the Ministry of I&B had made a similar announcement earlier this year, and I&B Minister PR Dasmunsi had received representations from the newspaper industry for raising the advertising rates by DAVP.
However, Singh pointed out said that DAVP ads were not part of magazines as they were with the newspapers mainly because magazines were periodicals, and also that the classifieds were part of day-to-day news publications (and not magazines).