At the inaugural session of FICCI Frames 2013, Uday Shankar, chairman, FICCI media and entertainment committee, and CEO of Star India, took the audience through some of the most pressing issues in the media and entertainment sector.
He started off referring to India’s film industry and its potential to deliver a Rs 1000 crore blockbuster. “Bollywood has set itself new benchmarks. It is time for the next audacious leap. I’m confident that such quantum leaps are also possible across media and entertainment sectors. As a community, we’ve shown admirable commitment towards content. In business terms, however, there is a long way to go. Our efforts should be channelised towards the ambition of making this industry economically more robust, creatively more vibrant, and socially more meaningful,” he said.
Shankar noted that alignment within the industry was critical to achieve ambitious growth. Citing the example of digitisation, he explained, “Digitisation is a superb example of a successful and a powerful alignment. Despite many hurdles, the unthinkable is about to happen in television distribution. With the first phase of digitisation underway, we now see over 10 million cable homes support digital. In the next few months, another 80 million homes will be digitsed. And this will be the fastest digital transition anywhere in the world. It is because of all stakeholders of the industry, including the government which was strongly aligned towards the idea of digitisation.”
Noting that media and entertainment was an economic enterprise capable of creating employment and wealth much faster than most sectors, he observed, “The government hasn’t been supporting the industry in the manner it should given the growth it has shown over the years. This year’s budget is a case in point. Instead of giving fiscal support to digitisation, which would unlock huge economic value, there is imposition of taxes on set-top-boxes. Why would you not nourish an industry which has the potential to become a huge employer? Why would you not fuel an industry with more policy support?” he questioned.
Lack of quality measurement was an issue the entire industry needed to ponder about, said Shankar. The issue of measurement, he indicated, went beyond audience measurement and TAM. He said, “As a broadcaster, I’m not 100 per cent sure of how many viewers do we cater to as a network. There are 140 cable and satellite homes, but the measured universe is only 52 million households. I don’t know how many subscribers I have with my MSO, and the MSO doesn’t know how many households their cable operators deliver signals to. How can this industry move forward without knowing basic facts such as these? Numbers are the rationale behind most important decisions.”
Shankar observed that while other sectors such as IT and financial services were working hard to find the right talent, the media and entertainment sector had the notion that ‘creativity allows it to be informal and chaotic’. “It is this informality and chaos that have seeped into our approach in spotting and grooming talent. And it’s dangerous,” he stressed.
Another issue Shankar pointed out on the talent front was the lack of quality institutions for the media and entertainment sector. “In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a quantum leap in terms of content – the number of newspapers, radio station and films have grown dramatically, but there is not even a nominal increase in the number of quality training institutions to support this kind of growth.”
Shankar also spoke about the freedom of speech, and said, “I’m shocked that there are groups in the country to continue to debate on freedom of speech for media. That is something that is not negotiable, he asserted.