Hard knocks for soft power

Source: Business Standard

Relevance: Understanding government’s role in furthering growth of media and creative industry

Synopsis: The state is tightening its control over what we read, watch, hear or laugh at. Why not facilitate our soft power instead of clamping down on its strengths?

Tightening the state control
  • Draft cinematograph bill 2021: In June 2021, came a proposal to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952. Among the recommended changes is one that gives the Union government the power to review a film even after it has been given a certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). This power had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2000.
  • Abolition of FCAT: The draft bill comes on top of the abolition of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal or FCAT in April 2021. If a filmmaker who didn’t agree with the changes or cuts by the CBFC’s examining body, they could go to the revising committee. And if that didn’t work there was always FCAT.
  • Digital Media Ethics Code: Earlier in February 2021, came the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. These govern OTTs, news websites/aggregators and social media firms. These have been challenged in several courts.
  • New tariff order: Recently, the Mumbai High Court ruled in favor of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s controversial New Tariff Order 2.0. The order, along with its earlier version, has formulas on how broadcasters can price their channels, what discounts they can offer and a ceiling on per channel prices. Broadcasters have gone to the Supreme Court.
Impact
  • Media and entertainment business will be in perpetual fear of being sued in distant courts and will self-censor (as it already does) in the hope that its CBFC certification is not revoked.
  • The costs and the control that the IT Rules put, especially on budding online news brands, will mean less investment in journalism and more on compliance.
Suggestions/Measures

The focus of the government regulation should be facilitation, not control. This has the following benefits:

  • Leveraging India’s soft power in creative industry will establish India more strongly in the global entertainment ecosystem
  • More jobs: Going by a Deloitte report in 2018, the total direct and indirect employment into just OTT, films and TV was 2.4 million people.
  • More taxes
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