Budget 2019: Media industry's wishlist for the finance minister

From tax reforms to reduction in GST and rationalisation of import duties for equipment, take a look at what these business leaders are looking forward to

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It is January 31 and we are just a day away from the annual Union Budget. All eyes are set on the finance minister as he gets ready to present the financial statement of the country. While the government finalises its list of announcements, for the country, the run-up to the Budget is the time to present its wish lists. And like all sectors, the media industry too has its list of demands. So a day ahead of the big day, we caught up with business leaders to understand what they wanted from the Budget this time.

From tax reforms to reduction in GST and rationalisation of import duties for equipment, take a look at what they expect from the government.

Television  

Plan for connecting villages digitally: Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News

The Media & Entertainment (M&E) industry grew at approximately 11 per cent last year and is expected to keep up the momentum with a CAGR of 13 per cent this year. The Indian M&E industry is on the cusp of a strong growth backed by rising consumer demand and bolstering advertising revenues. Our budget expectations include auguring taxation on fundraising and infusing the industry with subsidies. We also hope that the budget will delineate more specific plans for connecting the remote villages through high-speed optic fiber networks and building WiFi spots for a digitally-integrated country and connecting remote villages for maximum accentuation.”

Streamlining of tax laws & friendlier FDI regime: Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India

The broadcasting sector is in the midst of a changing ecosystem given the backdrop of the new tariff order. The upcoming Union Budget will be crucial in terms of upgradation and streamlining of tax laws. We also expect significant government investments to create jobs in the M&E sector, which is an aspirational sector for today’s youth. A friendlier FDI regime too would no doubt encourage more investments and boost long-term growth of the industry. Government schemes have helped boost ‘Make in India’, and we are hoping more efforts would be taken in this direction. From a television measurement perspective, lower TDS for Section 8 companies like BARC India as well as exemption from 18 per cent GST would be welcome.

 

Resources for employment generation: Priyanka Kaul, President-Marketing & Special Projects, Network18

The environment in the media sector is upbeat on the back of digitisation and convergence of print, television and internet. No doubt it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country. I see a great economic opportunity here and am particularly hopeful that the upcoming vote-on-account helps in streamlining and simplifying tax laws. The media & entertainment sector provides employment to a large population, and being a creative field, these jobs are immune to automation. The budget should also look at allocating some resources towards generating greater employment.

 

Reforms for data & content security: Rajat Nigam, Chief Technology Officer, Network18

I shall be looking at reforms and relaxations that would help adoption of intelligent systems for enhancing data and content security. That is so critical for the media industry in the current technology era. One must appreciate that content, which is the core asset of the broadcasters and media houses, is now virtually available anywhere and at any time, and faces potential risk of theft, breach and unauthorised access. Additionally, there is a need to reform the operational guidelines that are aligned with the shrinking gap between traditional and new age media.

 

Reduction in GST from 18% to 15%: Pawan Jailkhani, Chief Revenue Office, 9X Media

I think 18 per cent GST should be brought down to 15 per cent. This (high GST) hampers overall cash flow for a lot of broadcasters. GST is very important for TV. This has been a concern; 18 per cent is huge. We are a small network, and if we don't get subsidies from the government, it is difficult to operate. As 18 per cent cash outflow is huge, so a 3 per cent reduction works for us to a large extent.

Since the industry is largely driven by technology, hardware plays a very important role. A reduction in the overall taxation of set-top boxes will also play a key role in propelling growth for the industry with digitisation playing a very important role.

Also, unlike other industries, there is no start-up culture in this industry and the government has not assisted in this. It is extremely difficult for anyone wanting to start a new broadcast company as the entire environment is hostile. The ease of doing business will happen when the government recognises us at par with the other industries.

Print 

Provision for community newspapers: Deepa Gahlot, Columnist & Author

The upcoming budget should have some provision for the community newspapers which are doing incredible work. The government needs to support their contribution. The focus so far has been on traditional media outlets and now is the time to look beyond.

 

Minimum price for newsprint: Alok Mehta, Former President EDI

There should be a minimum price for newsprint and the government should consider that. The readership of print is growing in rural areas and we need to come up with quality publications which will only happen if newsprint cost is rationalised.

 

Radio 

Reduction in GST for radio sector to 5%: Asheesh Chatterjee, CFO, BIG FM

We expect the GST rates for the radio broadcasters to be brought down to 5 per cent in line with the print medium. Radio is a free-to-air medium and would certainly gain from this reduction in GST. We expect the government to look at radio as a medium that can reach masses. Radio has RJs who are basically trust leaders and influencers in their own right. When a message is integrated well with the content, along with the presence of RJs, stories, jingles and slogans, it can be a very effective medium.

 

Rationalisation of import duties on equipment: Nisha Narayanan, COO, Red FM & Magic FM

For the radio industry, FDI policies, tax and duties rationalisation are some areas that need focus in the Union budget. Radio has entered into additional tier 2-3 markets as part of phase 3 expansion. And for the industry to look at additional cities for launching newer stations, the setup capex cost needs to be lowered. This is only possible if the budget rationalises the import duties on radio equipment which currently is around 30 per cent. A reduction in this will surely make it more viable for both the smaller and larger players to look at setting up newer stations. We expect the budget to look into rationalising import duties on the transmission and other related equipment in this Union Budget.

Also, GST for radio advertising is currently at 18 per cent. We would expect the GST to be brought down to the 5 per cent slab, making the medium more price-competitive. This will encourage advertising growth and garner more business in the upcoming financial year. Lowering of GST will enable small businesses to advertise and expand their businesses.

 

Custom duty waiver on equipment import: Rahul Namjoshi, Business Head, My FM

GST should be reduced from 18 per cent to 5 per cent on the same lines as print media. Also, there should be a waiver of custom duty on import of equipment as almost all major equipment are imported.

 

 

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