National centre for animation & gaming to get Rs 520 mn: Soni

MUMBAI: Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni today announced that a National Heritage Mission was proposed to be set up with a budget of Rs 6.60 billion which will plan the celebration of one hundred years of Indian cinema in a major way.

Addressing the valedictory session of the three-day Ficci Frames and answering questions later, Soni also announced that a sum of Rs 520 million had been set aside by the Planning Commission for the National Centre for Animation, Gaming and Visual Effects.

Soni also announced that every effort was being made to complete the Museum of the Moving Image being constructed in Mumbai by 2013 and steps had already been taken to approve the architectural plan.

Regarding Phase III for FM radio expansion, Soni said that the draft guidelines drawn up by her Ministry had already been placed before the Union Cabinet which was expected to been taken up shortly.

Even as she promised to come down on pirates of software with a heavy hand, Soni said no one could be permitted to ‘hijack the law of the land’ and prevent the screening of any film.

Ficci Entertainment Committee Chairman Yash Chopra, tennis star turned Hollywood filmmaker Ashok Amritraj, actor Vidya Balan, Dutch Consul General Marijke van Drunen Little, and Ficci Secretary General Amit Mitra were present on the occasion.

She agreed that it was unethical to charge VAT on the input and Service Duty on the output, and therefore had stated as much to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. However, she promised to accompany a delegation of the film industry to meet him on the subject and expressed the hope that he will accept the demand.

In a clear reference to the attempts to stop the screening of Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘My Name is Khan’, the Minister said ‘self-styled moralists do not get legitimacy’ merely by using illegal means to put pressure on others. She said that the visit of Rahul Gandhi to Mumbai and taking a local train was meant to give a symbolic message in the same tone.

Soni said law and order was a state subject and therefore checking such forces or stopping pirates was a matter that could be looked into by the state governments. This includes preventing the pirates from getting hold of DVDs easily.

She said the Government was also moving towards amending the Cinematograph Act 1952 and the Copyright Act to help check piracy and bring laws in tune with changing technologies.

She claimed entertainment tax had been reduced in most states and it was not more than 40 per cent in any state.

She admitted that pirates took away the rightful earnings of filmmakers and she was committed to stopping that. A task force set up within the Ministry had been asked to give its report within six months, and a Group of State Information Ministers headed by the Andhra Pradesh Information Minister Dr Geetha Reddy had also been set up for this purpose.

She said that the entertainment sector had continued to grow even at the time of the recession and had, in fact, contributed to the growth rate of the economy.

At the same time, she said the Government was keen to expedite digitisation in the country to curb piracy, and the approval of Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) policy was a step in that direction.

She said though Indian cinema had taken huge strides, it was still to make a major impact on the world stage. She said technological innovations and creativity needed to move together towards this.

She applauded Indian filmmakers for continuing to deliver social messaging through their films, and many like Vidya Balan also taking time off to do social work such as working for HIV Positive patients.

Earlier, Chopra in his welcome address raised the issue of service tax, piracy, and amendments to the Copyright Act.

Little said the Netherlands had set up Media and Entertainment India to collaborate with Indian entrepreneurs, since the Indian film industry was the largest growing in the world. She said the growth of creativity was unstoppable and there was immense potential for collaboration between the two countries. Fifteen Dutch companies had come together to form ME India, she said.

Amritraj called for giving the script writers – ‘the unsung heroes’ - their due if the film industry had to thrive, tackle piracy strictly, and put in more money to promote films overseas.

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