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Govt extends support to M&E sector in fighting digital piracy

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NEW DELHI: The government of India yesterday stressed that it stood alongside the media and entertainment (M&E) industry in fighting digital piracy to safeguard loss of revenue and ease norms for doing business, while CII entertainment committee head and Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu Vats, on behalf of the industry, admitted that automation could result in loss of jobs leading to challenging times, but said the core of the industry will be ‘automation-proof’.

“The government will stand with you on the issue of digital piracy,” department of industrial policy & promotion (DIPP) joint secretary Rajiv Aggarwal told the audience on Tuesday at the CII-organised Big Picture Summit here, adding that they were exploring a national anti-piracy regulation or regime and there was no need to get further into enacting complicated laws but finding solutions based on global experiences.

Digital or online piracy is not only a big global challenge for the M&E industry, but has awakened stakeholders in India too who are feeling the heat of heavy loss of revenue due to rampant piracy of Indian content worldwide.

Pointing out that the Indian government is alive to the issue of digital piracy and the potential of the M&E industry in being able to generate revenues and employment in the country, Aggarwal said that they were looking at how global and some local bodies (like PIPCU of the UK, TIPCU in Telangana and Maharashtra’s online anti-piracy unit) were addressing this challenge.

Dwelling further on this issue, he exhorted the industry stakeholders to give feedback that will help India in forming a strong case and point of view for submission at WIPO where discussions are on to formulate standards for a global broadcast treaty.

This year’s Big Picture Summit, an annual two-day conference on issues related to M&E industry, has been themed `The Digital Takeover’, which lays emphasis on the creeping digitisation in general and of delivery services like cable, HITS and OTT, and an impending automation (egged on by the likes of AI) of the various industry sectors.

TRAI non-committal on exploring auctioning of TV licences

SK Gupta, telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) secretary, which is the telecoms and broadcast regulator, while dwelling on various issues of the recently issued recommendations on net neutrality said the organisation’s efforts have always laid emphasis on consumer interest, while creating a level playing field for all players.

Incidentally, at a time when the FCC has dismantled net neutrality norms in the US, put in place by the Obama regime earlier, favouring walled gardens of content and premium tiered pricing of various services, India’s TRAI has upheld net neutrality stating that all content should be made available to all distribution platforms on a non-discriminatory basis, apart from other level playing initiatives.

Later, asked by journalists on the sidelines whether TRAI was exploring a consultation paper on auctioning of TV licences or permissions on the advice of the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB), Gupta said he at least was not aware of any such move. He was non-committal when pressed on the issue.

Asian Age newspaper a week back had reported that the government was exploring auctioning of television channel frequencies on the lines of telecoms spectrum, coal blocks and FM radio licences. Reason: bid to increase government revenues as presently permission to uplink and/or downlink TV channels cost a fixed amount with the applicant fulfilling certain set out financial norms, apart from getting clearances for satellite space and internal security. The newspaper report had added that MIB had sought advice from TRAI in this regard. What the report did not clarify was whether the auctioning was of TV licences pertained to DTT (digital terrestrial transmission) or satellite-delivered TV channels later distributed by cable and online.

M&E industry holds key to creating future-proof, dynamic workforce: Vats

Earlier in the morning, setting the agenda for the two-day conference, CII entertainment committee head and Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu Vats in his opening address said that the theme of ‘Digital Takeover’ was a topic that had “loads of nuances” that needed to be addressed in a proper perspective.

“In my honest assessment, this is an extremely provocative theme - and one that can mean different things to different people. I can imagine some of my colleagues from the broadcast sector feeling upset. I can also imagine what some of my younger colleagues, who are already social media influencers thinking - this theme is passé, the takeover was complete a few years ago. I don’t want to pick a side at this stage and I’m certain that no definitive side can be picked,” Vats said, adding that he hoped the theme would help delegates form their own distinctive understanding of the future of the Indian industry in general.

Pointing out that digital takeover could mean greater automation and fewer human jobs, a trend that could is likely to play out slowly in India because of availability of cheap labour, Vats said the Indian M&E sector directly employs between 1.1-1.2 million Indians and in the next five years one million more jobs would be added, thereby playing a role in “assuaging the challenge”. He added: “If we achieve breakout growth, that number can also touch five million. However, I would like to draw your attention not to the number of jobs but to their quality.”

Explaining that skills, like creativity, story-telling, emotional intelligence and cognitive ability, in M&E sector were most ‘non-routine’ jobs, Vats said, “These are also the skills that can be transferred to other sectors, making us a part of the solution. Of course, we too will face our share of the burden. Some roles will be automated, and the media organisation might look very different in 2027, but our core will still be automation-proof.”

Vats also pointed out that the private sector needed to be more ‘creator-friendly’ or ‘freelancer-friendly’, which also meant that the M&E sector could hold the key to “creating a future-proof, agile, dynamic workforce” that can take its skills and drive impact across industries even as the government continued to create a better business environment.

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