Prasad lures entertainment sector with promised incentives

MUMBAI: A memorandum of understanding with Pakistan, 'not just on commerce, but also on creativity' may turn out to be the most positive outcome of the three day Ficci Frames convention that kicked off in Mumbai this morning.

"I extend my hand of friendship and appeal for a MoU of love to the delegation from Pakistan," information and broadcasting minister R S Prasad declared to rousing approval from an audience, which had otherwise slipped into a mood of near ennui at the bland inaugural session of the convention on the entertainment industry in India. Rajya Sabha MP Hema Malini and film star Preity Zinta were the only glamour faces on the podium, among a series of speeches where the 'India Shining' factor figured intermittently in references to the growing and glowing Hindi film industry. 

Prasad, however, also cryptically hinted at a major policy change in the radio broadcast sector, when he said that "we are going to be the facilitator in the fast growing segment," and that "we are moving in the right direction" (possibly towards a more feasible revenue sharing model).

UK secretary of state, department of culture, media and sports Tessa Jowell stressed on cooperation between the two countries, not just in the areas of film production, but also distribution and decried the growing invasion of piracy that is eating into legitimate revenues for the entertainment sector. While Prasad pointed out that most of the pirated content is one that originates from the sub continent, Jowell invited Indian companies to take advantage of the liberalised policy on broadcast licenses in the UK.

Prasad also hinted at more incentives for the entertainment sector if the NDA government returns to power, saying that since the procedures for film shooting were liberalised in India last year, the number of applications from overseas productions has shot up from 15 every year to 10 applications in just two and half months from the beginning of 2004. 

Both Ashok Amritraj, tennis ace turned Hollywood film producer and Prasad stressed on the need for developing better screenplays as on the importance of high technology in films and TV software.

Walt Disney International exploring possibility of a channel in India

Walt Disney International president Andy Bird met Prasad here today and expessed a keen interest in investing in the entertainment sector in India. Prasad was told that the Walt Disney company was exploring the possibility of a channel and would be meeting the key players in the animation sector during the three day Frames 2004 conference in Mumbai.

Bird told Prasad that his company saw clarity on policy issues, especially during the last two years, and that he saw good promise for investment in this sector. The possibility of a collaborative arrangement in programming with the Akashvani was also discussed. The two men also discussed the several policy initiatives taken by the government to liberalise the entertainment sector and attract foreign investment.

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