Sri Lanka's higher TV content import levy to hurt Indian TV channels

MUMBAI: Ouch! India's content syndication executives are yelping in pain. Sri Lanka’s (SL) finance & mass media minister Mangala Samaraweera, earlier this month,  issued a set of regulations which increases the levy that the government will be imposing on imported dubbed teledramas, films and commercial programmes to SLRs 150,000 from SLRs 90,000 earlier.

The idea behind the move: push local creativity and production and ensure the propagation of the emerald isle’s culture and values.

The country’s creative community – including film and TV producers, actors -  has for long been lobbying the government to levy a higher import tax on content.  

Says a media observer: “The Sri Lankan market accounts for around six to seven per cent of Indian broadcasters and distributors global exports of TV and audiovisual content. With this 60 per cent tax imposition, broadcasters there are definitely going to take a hard look at their expense sheets and probably halve their imports. And this will impact exports from India which are likely also to fall.”

Over the past few years, Sri Lanka’s broadcasters have been increasing the import of popular shows from India and dubbing them in Tamil and Sinhalese. “In the case of some of them, Indian shows have made up to 20-50 per cent of their prime time programming,” says a private satellite TV executive.

Adds another Sri Lankan media observer: “People in Sri Lanka love quality programmes and when the content buyer is buying content from India or any other players the quality is guaranteed. All the imported programmes are always on top of the charts and  local programmes are not doing that great.”

Sources reveal that Star Plus’ library show Yeh Hain Mohabbatein was amongst the most popular shows on one of the Sri Lankan channels.

Adds the observer: “With duties being imposed at the rate of SL Rs150,000  for  a maximum of a four part programme slot of two hours, with each show being of 30 minutes duration, SL broadcasters will have to perforce give a boost to the sagging SL production sector.  (The second four part slot will attract a penalty of SL Rs 250,000 and SL Rs 350,000 for anything beyond that.”



India’s syndication executives are, however, hoping this is a temporary phenomenon. Last year, Pakistan’s government had put up a full stop to TV shows and film imports from  India, which had left audiences there annoyed and the ecosystem reeling.  It however, backtracked this year and allowed Pakistani’s TV channels to import TV shows and film, with some restrictions.

Indian executives had heaved a sigh of relief then. Hopefully, that will be repeated in the case of Sri Lanka too.

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