MSOs, industry chambers firm up lobbying for entertainment industry on budget

NEW DELHI: Amidst an overwhelming sense of dismay, all three industry bodies are lining up their lobbies to get the demands of the entertainment and broadcasting industry sewn into the budget, somehow.

However, the position of sector regulator Trai is not clear so far on this issue and also, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation feels that there is no point in lobbying.

 

The major MSO body, MSO Alliance is also gearing up to impress upon the government the need for concessions favouring digitalisation and removing meaningless double-taxation.

So far, senior executives-industrialists have already met the Finance Minister once but the response to their pleas is not immediately known.

"There seems to be nothing on the horizon at the moment," Bobby Bedi, head of the Confederation of Indian Industry‘s entertainment industry committee, told indiantelevision.com.

"We have already met the I&B minister and he is solidly with us. The problem is the finance minister," argued another senior executive, saying that "perhaps people do not realise that the industry is poised for a quantum jump.

"There are immense possibilities in the areas of digital exhibition, outsourcing, post-production, etc., which needs a boost," Bedi said.

He revealed that the Federation has already taken up lobbying with members of Parliament on getting some of their crucial demands met.

Bedi suggested: "We should see some of the concessions coming up, though maybe not necessarily as the final budget provisions, but maybe sometime later in the year."

A senior official in the entertainment industry cell of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry also revealed to indiantelevision.com that they have already started lobbying with members of Parliament, but would not reveal their names, saying: "We have a centralises system," she said.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India‘s representative Ajay Sharma said that the three chambers had met the finance minister yesterday already, but would not discuss what the response of the minister was.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has not decided what course it will take. Responding to a question, RN Choubey, Trai advisor (Broadcasting and Cable Services) told indiantelevision.com: "The MSOs had certain suggestions, so we had sent them the finance ministry, but they had come in late, so the proposals reached late. By then the major formulations in the budget must have been sealed."

So is Trai still going to press further and lobby for the demands being taken up by finance ministry? "Nothing is ruled out nor ruled in. What Trai is going to do is for them to decide, and I cannot assume that role."

Roop Sharma, Cable Operators Federation of India president said: "We have already held a meeting with Assocham, and we are going to take this issue up seriously, especially digitalisation and bringing down duties and taxes.

IBF director-finance, Naresh Chahal said: "What do we do with more lobbying? We had sent so many crucial suggestions and are dismayed. This has been the position of the government for the past three years, so I do not think anything will change by lobbying."

Chahal said, however, some may have a feeling that broadcasters are all very rich and need no concessions, but that was not true. There are many small broadcasters who suffer immensely and there are so many newer ones coming up who need initial start-up concessions, he reasoned.

Meanwhile, the MSO Alliance is also firming up its plans and will go with the chambers of commerce and industry.

Ashok Mansukhani, senior official at Incable and a senior member of the MSOA said: "The government has simply blackballed the issue of digitalisation, completely ignoring even the recommendations of the Planning Commission."

He said that MSO and cable TV, as well as broadcasting are a telecom service issue now, with all of the players regulated by Trai. "So we cannot be a service and pay service tax, and then also pay entertainment tax, which the cinema halls do. Where is the level playing field?" Mansukhani demanded to know.

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