Budget 2019: Media heads welcome moves to ease FDI & boost start-ups

Industry heads say the Budget proposals to ease FDI norms and help start-ups have come at the right moment, will bring a positive change and build talent

Media

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden Union Budget has brought some cheer with the announcements about relaxing FDI norms for the media industry. 

The Budget focused on the vision of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2025, tax simplification and start-ups. It has set the ball rolling for launching a TV channel exclusively for the start-ups under the Doordarshan umbrella. 

However, in some cause for concern, the Finance Minister also announced a 10 per cent customs duty on newsprint. 
We spoke to media heads about what they thought about the Union Budget announcements. Read on to find out what they had to say:

Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network

The proposal to ease FDI norms for the media industry has come at an opportune time. It will allow us to invest in digital assets, upgrade technology and human skill enhancement. The transponder based model of all media and definitely for news media is changing. We will no longer need to uplink our signals to satellites and then down link on the basis of a transponder, so the leasing of transponders and satellites will become history. Instead, we will have internet-based TV which means app-based TV. This has already started. It will enable TV channels to become global very quickly, by eliminating the cost of transponders. Satellite TV stations can become global by investing in hiring more people, having international bureaus and becoming international stations. All this needs vision and investors. 

This will help the Indian media and entertainment industry to move to the next level and even aspire to become a global content hub. From a news broadcaster's perspective, it is now possible to envision a scenario when an Indian player can go international like the CNN, the BBC and the CGTN.


Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India

This Union Budget directionally augurs well for boosting long-term economic growth due to the focus on infrastructure improvements, strengthening benefits to the MSME sector and investments on improved skill sets of Human Resources. Steps taken to attract investments by relaxing FDI, FPI and NRI norms, coupled with boosting public sector banks and NBFC will trigger the much-desired credit boost.

Coming to the M&E industry, one will have to carefully look at the impact of allowing FDI in the media sector. We are happy as BARC India, for the impetus given to start-ups which will further propel efforts of the overall industry on innovation and digitization.

 

Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player
The government’s steps in opening up FDI further in the media and entertainment sector would help boost media entrepreneurs as well as talent. MX Player’s growth strategy is based on creating premium original content for the larger Indian audience, and the expansion of Bharat Net would offer a great opportunity to OTT platforms like ours to reach a vibrant and diverse audience beyond the metros and tier I cities.


Apurva Purohit, President, Jagran Prakashan

I welcome the budget presented by the Finance Minister. It is clear the government wants to reverse weakening growth and investment, and regain the tag of being the fastest growing economy in the world. To make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025, this budget has focused on investment-driven growth, with an added emphasis on infrastructure and digital economy. I strongly think that the decision of opening the gates for FDI in the media industry will usher a positive change in our sector. Additionally, by way of proposed changes, the government seeks to enhance women's participation in scripting India’s growth story, which is crucial for any developing nation. However, much more needs to be done to fuel immediate consumption and improve sentiment.


Deepak Lamba, CEO, Worldwide Media Ltd
The current budget is truly encouraging. The opening up of FDI in the media and entertainment sector is a welcoming and promising initiative. This is a big step for content creators like us, for it now opens up a host of different avenues for the digital world. It's a budget that the Digital Entertainment Industry will certainly benefit from. The growth of India’s FDI inflows for 2018-19 was a resounding 6 per cent increase compared to last year and this will have a positive impact for all players across sectors in the long run.

Vignesh Vellore, Co-Founder, The News Minute 
As an entrepreneur, I have always believed that regulations need to be eased for start-ups. This budget has brought about few changes which will help in boosting start-ups. Addressing the angel tax issue is a step in the right direction. Opening of FDI in high capital sectors such as Aviation will lead to growth of very skilled jobs which is very good for a country like India. Opening of FDI in the EV sector is also a welcome step as it’s about time to be focussing on such developments from an environment perspective. 

From the media space opening of FDI in the AVGC (Animation, Visual effects, Gaming and Comics) industry, it is still unclear on who or which media organisations can benefit at this stage. But I see this as a positive step in the right direction. Opening up of FDI in such sectors will lead to building up of talent in India. In a nutshell, taking from what the Finance Minister said, I think strategies have been put into place to positively "release the entrepreneurial spirit".


Nisha Narayanan, COO and Director, RED FM and Magic FM
The Indian economy is all set to become a $3 trillion economy and the first Budget by the Modi government has introduced several benefits. The Budget has proposed more foreign investment in Media. Currently, the FDI stands at 49 per cent for the private FM radio industry which we now hope will be opened up to 100 per cent for DTH and Entertainment sector. Liberalisation of the same will also majorly help in private FM station to reach the current media dark cities in India and adapt new era digital technologies and best practices being followed globally. The budget facilitates the transformation of the Indian economy into a digital economy with special focus on cash-less transactions.

We hope that in the long run we will be able to derive the benefits of the special initiatives and incentives announced by the Financial Minister in terms of tax rebate on e-vehicles, push for affordable housing, increase in the turnover limit of Rs 400 crore for companies to fall in the tax bracket of 25 per cent. Additional deduction benefit on home loans, focus on empowering women and announcing infrastructure push for railways, highways and education will also be beneficial for the radio sector. 

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