‘Uniform & rational taxes across states, single window clearances for the exhibition sector need to be emphasized’ – FICCI secretary general Dr. Amit Mitra

Dr. Amit Mitra

Dr. Amit Mitra
Dr. Amit Mitra

February 2009 will see India’s biggest media and entertainment convention FICCI FRAMES being held in Mumbai. 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the convention and efforts have been made to make it bigger this year.

FICCI FRAMES will be held from 17 – 19 February, 2009. This time round, the US is the partner country for FICCI FRAMES. International companies like Viacom, NBC and Turner have confirmed their presence for the same.

In this conversation with Businessofcinema.com, FICCI secretary general Dr. Amit Mitra gives an update on the convention and highlights the pressing issues that will be addressed across the film and television sectors.

Excerpts:

This is the 10th Anniversary of FICCI FRAMES. What are the initiatives that are being undertaken to make the convention bigger this time round?
It is a bigger event in every way. We have a very impressive line-up of the who’s who in Indian and global entertainment industry as our speakers. Even the programme has a novel spin in the way it has dealt with very relevant topics in each of the sessions. USA is our partner country and we will explore Indo-US synergies in comprehensive way. The entertainment evenings will also be bigger and glitzier with noted artistes from the US and India sharing stage.

What are the new areas that FICCI FRAMES 2009 is going to address in each sector?

We begin with an introspective session on the last ten years and a vision for the next decade by Indian industry stalwarts like Aroon Purie, Raghav Bahl, Shobhana Bhartia and Anand Mahindra. In films we are looking at film creativity and have a session on The Satyajit Ray Legacy: Has Indian Cinema measured up? Creativity in the New Age cannot happen without technology; we are going to address Technology and Convergence too. We are debating on a thought provoking session and asking ‘Is the Indian Media & entertainment Industry a male bastion?’

FICCI FRAMES 2009 will be different and refreshing in every way. We will of course look at the Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects sectors from the standpoints of IP, technology and human resource training. In TV, we will examine the whole TRP business in detail and understand the TV sector’s growth from adolescence to maturity.

There are as many as 35 countries participating this year. Will we see delegates from any new countries attending the convention?

Definitely. Interest has been shown from some new countries like Jordan, Ireland, Brazil and Azerbaijan.

Representatives from how many Indian companies are likely to attend the convention?
We had around 600 companies last time at FRAMES & are expecting the number to increase as many new companies have come up & shown interest. We expect around 800 in 2009.

Which personality from Bollywood will address the convention this year?
Our programme has been planned in such a way that there would be a sprinkling of Bollywood personalities all through the three days. We will be able to give out the names only in early January.

What kind of participation is expected from the South Indian media and entertainment industry this year at FRAMES?
We have escalated the build-up and promotion of FRAMES this year in a major way in South India. Though every year, many animation companies take part, we are very keen to invite participation in larger numbers from Film and Broadcast in South India.

In the light of the growing interest of Hollywood companies in India, how is USA being the partner country for FICCI FRAMES going to benefit and strengthen ties between the two countries’ M&E sectors?

India and US have always shared a certain cultural synergy with diasporic audiences spreading their tastes, films, music and habits throughout the American heartland. With this consistent cross-over and mingling of cultures, there is now a steady demand for Bollywood films in US; content business in India is likely to generate over $50 million in the next two years and this growth is expected to come from largely from the US market.

India is fast emerging as an outsourcing hub for production/post-production in animation/gaming and visual effects. VFX work of the most sophisticated variety for a lot of Hollywood blockbusters is undertaken inside studios dotting our cities.

Every American media house worth their salt is now eyeing and vying for place at the growing Indian media and entertainment bazaar: Newscorp, NBC, FOX, Viacom — all the global giants have invested into the India M & E sector heavily. Co-productions and joint ventures between American studios and companies and Indian production houses have also started in a big way.

Conversely, Indian media conglomerates are now forces to reckon with, having placed India firmly on the global map. All this will cross-mingling will get a further fillip with FICCI FRAMES happening at this opportune time. We will have sessions especially on Indo-US synergies and another one on Return on Investments on the Indian Media & Entertainment Industry where heads of American media companies like NBC and Turner who have invested in India would give us their views.

With the US as a partner country, what is the kind of participation that one can expect from Hollywood Studios for the convention? Are there any names confirmed from studios such as Viacom, Disney, Turner etc?
We have confirmations from leading Hollywood studios; Viacom, NBC and Turner.

What kind of participation will be there from the Government of India at the convention? Who is likely to attend from the ministry?

Like every year, the government at all levels will participate. The Minister will inaugurate the Convention along with the Secretary. Ministry officials will be there for relevant sessions.

Are there any policies or reforms that are likely to be announced by the Government at the convention?
That will only be clear from the Minister and Secretary, I&B’s addresses at the FRAMES inaugural.

Which are the pressing issues in the Indian filmed entertainment sector that need immediate attention?
The country is increasingly witnessing the digitization of the exhibition sector. This will help in simultaneous release of all films and hence less piracy as the interiors of India will be see the films on the same day. Uniform and rational taxes across all states, single window clearances for the exhibition sector need to be emphasized at this stage. There could be government intervention in providing conducive duty regime and taxes that will help the digitalization of the interiors of the country. The digitization is happening not only for screening but also the ticketing systems etc, which will bring in transparency in box office returns.

On the broadcasting front, what are your views on the increasing number of channels that are crowding the space?
The number of channels in the Indian skies now adds up to 325-350. This crowding lent more urgency to the TRP (television rating points, which measure viewership) race as channels sought a larger share of the ad revenues.

GECs (general entertainment channels), too, were back in action after a pause of a few years. While INX Media and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd launched 9X and Zee Next, respectively and Viacom Inc. tied up with the TV18 group to launch Colors, Plus NDTV launched its GEC i.e. NDTV Imagine. As the numbers grew, players began targeting niche segments such as news, fashion, sports, lifestyle, tourism and children.

The year also saw foreign media houses partnering Indian companies. Turner International, a unit of Time Warner Inc., forged a joint venture with Miditech Pvt. Ltd’s Alva Brothers to launch GECs, Walt Disney Co., too, picked up a minority stake in UTV Software Communications.

There is no harm in having so many channels as long as they cater to the demand of the consumers and consumer remains the King.

What is your view of the current media and entertainment scenario in India ? How has the global market meltdown affected the Indian M&E industry?

The Indian media and entertainment sector remains resolute and determined despite the meltdown and growing at a rate of 17% CAGR. The crisis in the West has in fact opened up solutions for their companies in India, which remains a large market both in terms of having a huge consumer base as well as an outsourcing hub.

What are the milestones that have been achieved by FICCI FRAMES over the last 10 years?

Many major milestones in the media & entertainment industry were achieved in the past decade with FICCI thanks to the efforts made by FRAMES and the deliberations which had happened there had been instrumental in bringing about.

We look back fondly on each year and remember the great people who spoke at the convention from Amitabh Bachchan, Mukesh Ambani, NR Narayanamurthy, Azim Premji, Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, Hon’ble Minister of Communications, Government of Italy, Phillip Graf, CBE, Deputy Chairman – OFCOM, Rt Hon’ble Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State, Government of UK; Dan Glickman, President & CEO, MPAA; Barrie Osborne, Producer Lord of the Rings-Triology; Tom Freston, President & CEO, Viacom; James Murdoch, Chairman, STAR Group; Michael Grindon, President, Sony Pictures International Television, Mark Zoradi, President, Buena Vista International; Andy Bird, President, Walt Disney International; Stewart Till, Chairman, United International Pictures and others.

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