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Government says OTT platforms will not be strangulated by regulation
Dec 17, 2020

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is in the process of coming up with a Draft National Broadcast Policy and consultations on the AVGC Policy too will be held very soon, said Ms Neerja Shekar, Additional Secretary (Broadcasting) & CVO, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in her address at 9th CII BIG Picture Summit on Thursday.

"Though, the consultations on the National Broadcasting Policy were held with the stakeholders and by the industry some time back, we have been putting in various parts together and including the emerging issues as well. I feel that we are getting pretty close to coming up with a draft version. AVGC being an emerging sector with great potential we are also working on it. And we will be holding consultations very soon," said Ms Neerja Shekar during a Special Plenary, 'Transformative Policy for Bigger Picture', held on the second day of the Summit attended by M&E industry captains and stakeholders.

Saying that media and entertainment is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Indian economy with potential to contribute significantly in India's move towards becoming a $5 trillion economy, Ms Shekar said that all the forms of media are growing simultaneously not necessarily at the cost of the other because the reach of different forms of media can be region specific or platform specific. "The consumers are looking at all these platforms separately for the kind of content and the kind of entertainment that they are catering. TV, print, radio, films, and digital all have been moving together," she added.

Speaking about granting infrastructure status to the broadcast industry, Ms Shekar sought industry support in terms of giving important inputs to the ministry. "We have been trying to support the broadcasting by getting it declared as infrastructure. But we have not been able to succeed because the few times that we went to the finance ministry they were not convinced with our arguments. I would request the broadcasting industry and the OTT platforms to please support us on this because we will need your help in taking this case to the finance ministry and convince them that as the status of infrastructure has been given to the telecommunication sector, we are also a fit area for that. But we will not be able to do it without your support."  

She also sought help from the industry bodies like CII to help the ministry in policy making by conducting “good periodic surveys and research” on media consumption patterns. “We work on data and what is happening in the market as there has to be a co-relation with the reality. But the data is available on a piecemeal basis. A good periodic survey will help us make policies, as our data is dispersed,” Ms Shekar said.  

Highlighting the need for a regulatory framework, the Additional Secretary Broadcasting said, "Though all over the world, particularly in democracies, a regulatory framework is essential for every sector to grow. But in strong democracies this regulatory framework has to be a supportive framework." She also called for adopting self regulation by the industry.
Mr S K Gupta, Secretary, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, said that today India is passing through a "digital revolution era". 

"We have got 750 billion broadband subscribers and 550 million smartphone subscribers, their smartphone adoption rate is 30% year on year, meaning there are a large number of people who will have a smartphone and can see TV or other contents on the phone."

He added that media and entertainment industry is modeling the society. "You are actually modeling the society. You have got a lot of responsibilities on your shoulder as to how you project our future to happen, which is going to affect our children, our young people, and almost everybody."

Mr Gupta also pointed out that how changing consumer behaviour has opened new challenges for the industry. "Productivity of individual is increasing and therefore available time for the entertainment is reducing. Due to this, individuals want good quality time with the entertainment. He has become more demanding in terms of what he really wants, at the time and place he chooses. So, this gives a challenge to the industry to slightly tune up to their requirement."
He said that India is at the stage of adoption of the 5G technology. "So, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are going to be very important areas to work together. While it could be a challenge also, it can complement the capabilities of the media and entertainment industry. This can give us a lot of leverage to export our content to other countries," Mr Gupta added.

Mr Vikram Sahay, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, in a special address at a session entitled, 'Under Scrutiny: Will OTT be Able to Get Over It?', said that OTT platforms have provided a huge opportunity for young artists, directors, actors, singers, musicians, and technicians to come up and present their skills to a larger audience.

"It is yet another opportunity for us as a country to showcase across the world that we can present the best among the best," he added.

Addressing regulatory concerns, Mr Sahay said that the government is trying "to ensure that our consumers are protected in all ways" from fake news and other unacceptable content. "The concerns are uniform across the world. It has nothing to do with India, specifically it is concerned with protecting children from content not suitable for them. And therefore, we have been in touch with the industry and we will continue in touch with the industry to work out a model which is acceptable to all of us," he said.

Earlier, speaking at the inaugural of the Summit on Wednesday, Mr K Madhavan, Chairman, CII National Committee on Media & Entertainment and Managing Director, Star India Pvt Limited & Disney India , said: "In my many years in the industry disruption on this scale has never been imagined. However, the entire media and entertainment industry came together to engage and entertain millions of viewers. Television and video streaming increased to peak at 37% higher than the pre lockdown period and IPL was the biggest live cricketing tournament to be held during the pandemic. The tournament broke all previous records with a 23% increase in viewership over last year."

Mr Madhavan added that the industry has the potential to grow to $100 billion by 2030. "The pandemic has driven customers to adopt technology. There has been never seen before growth in e-commerce, online video and digital gaming sectors. But to achieve this potential, we need light touch regulations and a much simpler governance structure in place," he said.

The three-day annual CII Big Picture Summit 2020, being held online from December 16 to December 18 this year, will see over 25 Knowledge Sessions and more than 120 speakers deliberating on a wide range of issues that cut across the spectrum looking to develop a cohesive industry engagement with core cross sectoral policy dialogues and strategic exchanges.

17 December 2020
 

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