Television in India has several bodies representing various domains and interests of players in the business. Perhaps one of the early ones to recognise the need for a united industry voice for production houses and television executives was Indian Television Academy (ITA). Officially set up on July 18, 2001, ITA has been active in raising issues for the industry and creating platforms that can bring the television industry together.
The success of the recent ITA Awards, which was aired on Star Plus, in terms of ratings, which, according to Anu Ranjan, President, ITA, were higher than any other awards function including Star Screen, Zee Cine, IIFA and Filmfare Awards. She added, “All of these awards enjoy the participation of the entire film industry and their superstars; cost almost 50-60 per cent more to put together and promote, but still enjoyed 30-40 per cent lower TRP ratings. The participation in the ITA Awards itself is an indication of the strength that this platform has been gathering over the years.”
Giving a backdrop on what led to the ITA, Ranjan elaborated, “The thought germinated back in 2000 itself. There was no entity that the TV industry could call their own then. Everyone – production, programming, every domain – was operating in individual capacities. All of us were facing many problems, and as individuals we found it very tough to handle these problems. That was when we felt that there was a desperate need for an industry representative body.”
Ranjan informed that the point was vindicated when at that time a broadcaster was delaying in paying production houses. “We had an outstanding of Rs 40 lakh in 2000, and we were chasing them like other producers. Then around 18-20 of us got together, we discussed the outstanding, and we went to the channel. Though settled for a measly 10 per cent at that time, the broad learning was that when you go as a group, they look at you differently. That was the time we decided that we must start some kind of a body and the idea of ITA cropped up.”
Ranjan further said that the process involved studying the industry body structures from other countries since India at that time didn’t have a precedent to offer. “I took some of the points that I thought were valid and put them together, got the name Indian Television Academy registered, and with this met the then I&B Minister, Sushma Swaraj. TV wasn’t taken so seriously then, but the Minister assured us all support,” she added.
Soon the process involved the then Maharashtra Chief Minister, and then the ITA governing council was formed with Javed Akhtar, Shatrughan Sinha, Mahesh Bhatt, Shekhar Suman, Nina Gupta, Shashi Ranjan, Ravi Chopra, Prem Kishan, Prem Sagar and Siddharth Kak as members.
Ranjan stated that since the industry had agreed that there was a need for a body like this, everyone was a part of the ITA. The Academy executed several on-ground initiatives at the time ranging from seminars and workshops to conferences. “But all that was internal. We needed something to get the people to relate to the ITA, which was why we thought of the ITA Awards. There were no television awards at that time; I went with the idea to Sameer Nair, who was then with STAR India, and he instantly agreed for on-air telecast. We had 700 entries then, which have gone up to 3,000 seven years later,” she noted.
As a logical next step, and as an attempt to “record the television industry growth”, the ITA then embarked on a magazine product called ‘GR8!’. Ranjan said, “Everyone said that it was a bad idea since magazines weren’t selling, all newspapers and publishers told us they were not interested, and today you can see that that is all what they are doing.” The ITA then did the Women’s Achievement Awards, which also saw industry support from women in all domains of life, and is now in its seventh year. One of the recent initiatives from the ITA is Valentine’s Day, which would be telecast on Zee TV.
Where the ITA has an industry role to play, it is also involved in television programming and films. Shashi Ranjan handles the film and television part, where he looks after the creative, while Anu Ranjan is involved in the marketing. The company is doing shows for Zee Next, IBN7, and a reality show for Sony TV, in addition to another show for the Sanjeev Kapoor cookery channel. Shashi Ranjan has also just completed a Hindi movie ‘Dhoom Dhadaka’.
So, how does the team balance the two roles? Anu Ranjan replied, “These two are not connected at all. Production is a completely professional job, where you talk to professionals, what they do for you, and what you do for them. We do events for various products launches, where we don’t get involved as the ITA. We are very clear in these lines between the two responsibilities and we never blur them.”
Ranjan is clear that the success of The ITA lay in the fact that “every production house is a part of the ITA”. She said, “There are 160-170 production houses and channels that send in entries and are a part of the ITA. The industry representation is brilliant, and that is really what matters. There are some production houses that when doing well, would rather work standalone, but become a part of the industry when things go a little topsy-turvy. And then there are those who are with the industry through the good, bad and ugly. So, our industry has that mix, too, but the industry believes in the ITA, and from our side, we do everything to ensure that this is strengthened further.”