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‘On Television’ facilitates debate on TV industry issues; offers direction

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‘On Television’ facilitates debate on TV industry issues; offers direction

Vinod Behl

Despite the fact that Television Industry has made tremendous strides in the recent years, emerging as the fastest revenue earner in the entertainment sector, it is today at the crossroads. Bogged by the shrinking ad pie, resource crunch for inducting new technology and problems relating to piracy, copyright protection, global marketing, subscription revenue and channel - producer relationships, it is looking for a new direction to exploit the big potential that lies ahead. All these crucial issues confronting the TV industry were strongly debated in a no-holds-barred interface at ‘On Television,’ a seminar on television industry organised by Indian Television Academy in Mumbai on April 12-13.

The inaugural session ''First Word'', which provided an overview of critical issues confronting the TV sector by the industry captains set the stage for a highly absorbing seminar. Amit Khanna, President, Film Producers Guild talked about what he described as the problem of ''Attention Economy'' confronting the television industry as the general entertainment channels are facing linguistic compulsions to attract eyeballs. He said that the challenge before the industry which is entering second phase of broadcasting is that content is not keeping pace with the growth of TV. He called for content innovation and corporatisation to meet the challenge.

Sony Entertainment Television CEO, Kunal Das Gupta minced no words in his candid assessment of TV industry which he said was in crisis of change and looking for a direction. He added that on one hand the total ad pie has shrunk dramatically and on the other hand the revenue is further hit with stereotyped programmes. He cautioned that technology can''t solve the current problems as it''ll take time to happen adding that the solution lies in striking the right chord with the viewers. Bhuvan Lall, executive director, Indian Broadcasting Foundation endorsed Das Gupta''s views saying that in the present times, programme makers have to feel the pulse of viewers who want to watch good programmes and go in for content innovation. To score his point he said that even today in the times of crisis, good TV networks are surviving well. He also stressed the need for international marketing of TV programmes.

Anil Baijal, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting expressed the concern that several programmes are dying because we are ignoring the fact that in a multi channel scenario branding is fundamental to programming. But at the same time he expressed the hope that the convergence technology will spur the growth of television adding that we must opt for financially viable business model.

The session on marketing and sales saw several senoir media professional make impactful presentations. Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison Communication dwelled extensively on challenges and opportunities before channel content providers, advertisers and agencies. LV Krishnan, CEO, Television Audience Measurement (TAM) gave successful marketing mantra of right content and right distribution of channel. Vikram Sakhuja,MD,Mind Share Fulcrum,dwelled on the fact that effective marketing plays important role in lifting TV ratings and building channels. He advised that marketing of channels / programming should not be an on-air affair but should span over print, on air, outdoor events, radio and web. Read more on this session in our other story titled ‘Broadcasting industry in crisis…’

One issue which witnessed heated discussions related to the channel - producer relationship. The differences between channel managers and producers came in the open. Producers charged that the relationship was not a creative partnership and the channels were dictating terms and curbing producers creativity. Vandana Malik, Director TV 18 India said that commissioning model offering low budget and no rewards to producers prevalent in most of the channels was responsible for killing creativity of producers. Channel managers on the other hand said that producers were not willing to make programmes in accordance with market conditions. Noted producer director Raman Kumar traced the roots of the problem to one sided contract loaded in favour of channels. He said things can improve only after concept of partnership is brought into the basic contract. Ravi Chopra of B R Television said that solution lies in the marriage of flair of producers with methodology of channels. Zarina Mehta gave her mantra to repair relationship saying that both the parties need to share same vision and equal responsibility for success or failure.

The debate on piracy and copyright involving various legal issues proved to be very informative and useful as it threw light an intricacies of Copyright Act and need to create awareness among programme makers. Prem Sagar, Marketing Director, Sagar Entertainment lamented that TV industry does not have collective data on copyright projection. He called for forming central body by bodies like ITA to curb piracy and protect copyright. Raman Kumar advocated the concept of registration of ideas while Nishith Desai, founder Nishth Desai Legal, talked about forming a Guild on the lines of USA to protect Copyright Act of those involved in TV programming.

Largely, the seminar was successful in debating several issues impacting the TV industry. However there was not much discussion on significant issues like social responsibility of TV channels. Curiously, representatives from regional channels were conspicuous by their absence.

Considering that the contentious issues have no easy solutions, it was not surprising that the seminar could not reach at any conclusion. However several key participants like Shashi Ranjan, President, GRAFITI and also the force behind the Indian Television Academy are upbeat over the outcome, "We have got a direction to move forward. Several useful suggestions emerging in the seminar will translate in to concrete action to provide impetus to TV industry" says Shashi. Anu Ranjan, President, The Indian Television Academy is however contended with what she describes ''good beginning to a good cause''. "In the very first seminar, we had close to 500 participants from the TV industry who indulged in some very fruitful discussions. Next time many more will join us in our mission to give right directions to TV industry to put it on path of high growth".


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