Is Government support to M&E Industry a key ingredient for its success?

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Media & Entertainment Industry in India is one of the fastest growing and one of the few well recognized across the world. From the current estimate of Industry size of US$ 20 billion it is expected to touch US$ 35 billion in F.Y 21. With its burgeoning growth potential, world recognition, as well as world class skill base, it somehow just has not got the government attention it deserves. A free and fair press is a key pillar of democracy like ours and any government whether the present one or the ones’ in the past will reaffirm that they have done their bit to keep it that way. They will also say that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting ranks high on the importance levels in the government and hence gets the industry the attention needed.

This then begs the question: ‘What is the attention we seek from the government?’ And secondly ‘Why do we collectively feel that the government is not giving that attention?’ To answer these questions, a better understanding of the Media & Entertainment industry is needed.

The business of Media and Entertainment currently is in throes of a change across the world and India is also experiencing the change. Most of the M&E businesses have two key pillars i.e, Content and the Distribution, Providing engaging, good, and clean Content is a prerequisite and so is regulation (whether self -regulation or government controlled regulation) to monitor such content. Legacy systems though existing are striving to keep pace with how the content is being distributed and regulated.

Distribution, has seen the biggest change in the past decade or so largely fueled by innovative advances in information technology and the changing consumer preferences. The consumers are rapidly moving towards consuming content anytime as well as anywhere and going away from fixed time viewing, made possible by innovative technology in wireless. Wireless in the form of smart mobiles are now capable of accessing worldwide content with very few barriers.

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Therefore, most of the M&E businesses are now complex businesses. Global availability of content on the worldwide web facilitated by ever expanding smart phone technology have rendered the traditional business models of these businesses very vulnerable. Many of the M&E businesses were models largely funded by advertisement and very little through subscription. Inability to control the content offering to defined audiences, going away from regular payment mechanisms as well as vulnerability to protect the brand or IPR’s promise are making the businesses very risky and in search for the new model of sustainance. Therefore the role of regulation as well as the government becomes important as well as meaningful in today’s context as always. The government through selective investment, regulation as well as oversight can help in the following:

  • creating appropriate regulation to oversee distribution content in today’s term of technological possibilities
  • bringing licensing regulation in such a manner that it supports revenue generation as well as restricts undesirable behaviour including conflict of interests.
  • help in creating infrastructure and adopting newer technologies.
  • help in regulation with respect to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR’s), the lifeblood of M&E enterprises.
  • Appointing independent regulators for important parts of the industry such that the constituents behave as per law laid down and their problems are addressed.
  • Rationalise the tax guidelines of the industry for the benefit of the constituents as well as the government.

Clearly, Government has a key role to play in helping shape the M&E businesses. Why then, collectively as an industry there is always a feeling that government does not always help?

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The reasons are many. Some of the reasons are of Governments own violation while the others can be attributed to the other industry constituents. Some areas where the government needs to take note are as follows:

  1. Just as the industry constituents it is difficult, for the government too to understand the rapid change in the business model of the industry. They need to understand the rapidly changing technology as well as its capability to deliver content not only in India but across the borders without any real hindrance. This learning is key to understanding what as well as how to regulate and thereafter how to protect as well as enhance government revenue through taxes.
  2. In India like in many other countries, the government performs a dual function. It is a regulator/Licensor as well as a Industry constituent with ownership of a large media organisation. It needs to find ways to delineate the two responsibilities such that it can lead to a healthy growth of the industry as well as the government owned media enterprises. Media tends to be the most regulated of the industries world over due to the tendency of controlling information landscape for nationalist endeavours. Some countries have managed the delineation well, of which UK/US are prime examples.
  3. Political masters and the government look at Media often from the prism of nationalist endeavours and therefore fail to recognise the impetus the industry can provide for the country. With its well – endowed skill base as well as a worldwide calling card of ‘Bollywood’, the government has faltered in not enabling the industry to world standards through forward looking laws , infrastructure as well as tax policies. Their positive action could enhance skill base, provide jobs and more importantly increase the tax base.

However it has not been fault of the government every time it has not acted. Its also the industry constituents who have not been able to provide the government enough material for them to act.  Very often the pitches to the government are biased, meant to benefit few rather than the industry as a whole. To be fair to the government, they did act when it understood that digital distribution of TV content was the way forward or what the issues were in Radio licensing.

In the free world, the accepted way of educating and propositioning the government is through the industry associations. They usually provide knowledge of best practices as well as provide collective lobbying service. In India, specially for the M&E industry, there is no single ‘Industry Association’ which represents the industry as a whole. There are many associations which represent the different areas of M&E industry and are pretty active too. However, they usually proposition the government separately, often with separate agenda’s and at cross purposes even when some issues are same industry wide. Trade institutions like FICCI as well as CII have tried to play a stellar role in bringing these associations together on a common platform but they still fall far short of what, for instance, ‘NASSCOM’ has been able to do for IT industry.

Therefore, there is a key role for the Government to play to help grow the M&E industry. However industry players too need to come together, pooling knowledge and lobbying to get greater attention of the Government largesse for identified common issues. The route for greater cooperation between the Government of the day and the Industry constituents is there. It just needs greater cohesion and trust in each other. We all hope that future will allow the Industry players as well as the Government to work together to realize the real potential of the Media & Entertainment  Industry not only in India but  for success across the world.

 

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