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MIB tightens its grip over film institutions, stakeholders oppose the move

Four public-funded film bodies, Films Division, National Film Archive of India, Directorate of Film Festivals, and Children’s Films Society of India, will be merged with NFDC by January end

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jan 4, 2022 8:56 AM  | 3 min read
Film industry

The year 2022 seems to usher in new challenges for the film industry. While the release of big films like RRR has been postponed over the looming threat of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic leading to the closure of theaters in some states, the central government also gears up to consolidate various film bodies to downsize its expenses. 

Tightening its grip further on film institutions, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has now decided to merge four public-funded institutions — the Films Division (FD), National Film Archive of India (NFAI), Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), and Children’s Films Society of India (CFSI) — with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) by January end. 

An order in this regard was issued last month, although the announcement was made in December 2020. While DFF is headquartered in Delhi, NFAI is in Pune and CFSI and FD are based in Mumbai. The primary reason behind the push for restructuring these institutions is to convert them into profit-making entities.

The Mumbai-based NFDC is expected to turn around its finances once the merger takes place. The government also hopes that the consolidation of resources will help bring better coordination, synergy and efficiency in achieving the mandate of each of these bodies.

The stakeholders have vehemently opposed the government’s move though. 

Actor Naseeruddin Shah, filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane and lyricist-writer Varun Grover have written to the government opposing the merger of public institutions. Their letter claimed that the decision, which was taken without consultation with the stakeholders, is a “matter of concern due to the lack of clarity and transparency in the process of this merger”, as reported by PTI. 

Calling the ministry’s decision a 'catastrophe in the name of Indian film heritage', the letter stated, “It was a surprise to know that the High Powered Committee under Shri Bimal Julka submitted its report without engaging with the primary stakeholders. The fact that this report has not been made publicly available despite an RTI application raises further questions about the legitimacy of the whole process.” 

“As critical stakeholders in the matter, we are concerned about the lack of clarity and transparency in the process of this merger. There is widespread speculation in the media that the entire exercise is a precursor for future privatization of our film archives and government properties,” they stated. 

The signatories of the letter demanded that the government declare the FD, NFAI, CFSI archives as National Heritage funded by public money and belonging to the general public and protect the archives and give written assurances in the Parliament that they will not be sold or auctioned either now or in the future. 

Earlier the government had abolished the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in April 2020 which had also led to stiff opposition from a section of filmmakers. Besides, it has brought all the OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hotstar, under the ambit of the MIB. 

These steps are being viewed by the section of the film fraternity as the government’s attempt to curtail their freedom of expression. A section of Bollywood is already concerned with the Uttar Pradesh government’s attempts to establish a film city in Noida and invitation to “north Indian” filmmakers for investment in the state.

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