Industry gung-ho on proposed local content mandate

After many years of meandering on the margins (since 1997), the information and broadcasting ministry is ready with a final draft of the Broadcast Bill 2006, which in all likelihood is going to turn out to be controversial and stringent at the same time. The recommendations that have been proposed in the bill, if they finally become law, are bound to have seismic repercussions in the industry. The draft bill, which calls for the setting up of a separate Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India (Brai), has covered four major areas in its ambit, which would call for major corporate restructuring by media companies, foreign and domestic, operating in India. These include local content, cross media ownership, subscriptions and live sports feeds (which are already part of the downlink norms). One key recommendation in the draft bill that proposes a mandate on local content has caused a wave of anticipation and excitement in the Indian animation industry. It reads thus.. * TV channels on a mandatory basis would have to have a certain prescribed percentage of content produced locally and also carry socially relevant programmes. â€?The share of content produced in India shall not be less than 15 per cent of the total content of a channel broadcast during every week,â€? the draft bill states. It also goes on to state that the share of public service/socially relevant programme content shall not be less than 10 per cent of the total programme content of a channel broadcast during every week. This would mean that channels like Cartoon Network, Animax, and other kids channels would have to have a prescribed percentage of content generated from India, which has been a long-standing demand of Indian animation. “We are absolutely delighted. The proposed bill is a surprise and will be a catalyst for growth. I would like to however add that Cartoon Network, Nick and Disney have anyways gotten interested in local content and this regulation is a bit late,” remarked DQ Entertainment CEO & MD Tapas Chakravarti on being contacted by Animation Xpress.com He went on to add that 15 per cent is too less and that China and Japan have close to 50 per cent of local programming share on TV channels. Chakravarti also revealed that the development has inspired DQ to go ahead with its investment plans in Intellectual Property (IP) in India. “At DQ, we have taken a decision internally almost six months back for creating Intellectual Property (IP) in India. We are planning $10 million investments on our part and our French and American partners will bring in similar numbers. The idea is to create products for global market but with Indian stories. This will be something similar to what Disney did with Jungle Book,” he explained. Concurring with Chakravarti is Phoebus Media CEO Rahul Bakshi. “15 per cent is too less, but is a good start and will have a multiplier effect. It gives companies like ours conviction and confidence that we are on the right track having already invested a lot in local content,” he added. The industry also feels that the move will give it shelter from the rain as well as boost the job scenario. “Such a government move will help us get more conviction to stick to original content. Thousands of jobs will be created and more animators means more animation outsourcing also,” says Green Gold Animation CEO Rajiv Chilakalapudi. According to Graphiti Multimedia director Munjal Shroff, the proposed regulation could help content creators look at other markets to compliment the revenues. “Usually there has always been a block because TV channels find it much more economical to buy animated content from markets like Mipcom at $500 to $1000 per episode rather than commissioning new shows in India. If the bill is passed and local content does become compulsory, then it will give local content creators a space to exist and once there is a minimum local market, then content creators can always look at other markets to compliment the revenues,” says Shroff. “It is a great step towards encouraging the Indian studios to produce local content and It will help stabilize the industry. You have proven examples like Japan, Canada and France. In a way this will also be a step towards taking Indian content international” said Anirights CEO & Founder Ashish Kulkarni. “For Anirights, with or without this bill the company’s business model revolves around animation rights and creating and owning intellectual property, this is however a welcome news for us” he added. “Of late Indian channels have been showing interest in local animation content, but I hope they will take interest in co-producing content too. That will ensure that the content quality level will be high and also give a bigger instant market for the content” he further added. Color Chips CEO Sudhish Rhambotla felt that channels would either commission local content or also have the option of shifting production of some of their shows being produced elsewhere into the country, which again would be “good for the business.” On their part, the kids channels expressed their readiness to make changes in their programming structure if need be. The Walt Disney Company India managing director Rajat Jain said, “Whatever changes have to be made, will be made in our programming according to the Broadcast Bill when it is passed. At the end of the day, one has to comply with the laws of the land.” When queried as to what percentage of programming on Disney Channel and Toon Disney were local presently, Jain said, “It is difficult to calculate at this point in time what the percentage of local content is.” Hungama TV COO Zarina Mehta says her channel already plays more than 15 per cent of local content. “I don’t know the exact percentage of local content that we have on the channel but currently it will definitely be more that 15 per cent. If fact, we will be the only kids channel that have that much of local content,” she says

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