What TV town expects from the Union Budget 2021

Tax rebate, subsidy for shooting in other locations tops the list.

MUMBAI: In 2020, the iconic ‘Lights, camera, action!’ was temporarily silenced across the country. The Covid2019 pandemic wreaked havoc on the once-thriving media and entertainment industry, stymieing its smooth functioning, at least for the time being. The silver lining, however, is that despite the global impact of the pandemic, production houses are hopeful of a brighter future. Industry experts are anticipating that the Union Budget 2021 will provide long-term benefits to the film & TV production sector. However, they are of the opinion that any breaks would most likely go to the theatrical business, considering that cinema halls were closed or operating with a cap on seating for the better part of the year.

A report by PwC suggests that the media and entertainment industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of over 10 percent, reaching $55 million by 2024. It further states that Budget 2021 will play a pivotal role on how the entertainment industry of India shapes up this year. Especially given that the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has promised a budget “like never before” this year.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) president Uday Shankar says, “As the government expands its balance sheet, there will be a need to augment revenues. There are several avenues that can be looked at including strategic sale and privatisation of public sector enterprises. Indications are that the government is actively looking at this route and would see some major announcements in the budget. Given the state of the stock market, it is the right time to make use good use of the valuations and garner additional resources.”

The industry also expects a reduction in the rate of TDS on domestic payment towards non-theatrical rights to two per cent, on par with the TDS rate with respect to sale, distribution and exhibition of cinematographic films.

Contiloe Pictures COO Nitin Dadoo shares that in the time of pandemic, the finance minister has weightier matters on her plate, with fiscal deficit touching 97 per cent. Her priority would be housing, hospitality, trading and other industries in order to revive the economy. He added, “From the M&E industry point of view, the budget of 2021 could give some relaxation to cinema halls as they are directly impacted. Other than that, I am not expecting too much from this budget considering that for the government there are other important sectors that need revival. I believe FICCI or IBF must have proposed to reduce GST or tax, as there is entertainment tax in some states.”

Actor & Cine and TV Artistes' Association (CINTAA) chairperson Amit Behl expects a lot of leeway for the entertainment industry. According to him, the government is aware about the loss that the overall industry has suffered. Most state governments have started providing subsidies for shooting because the association is giving employment to local talent in lots of states. Behl asserts that media and entertainment is among the most affected sectors; advertising revenues have dropped, so he hopes the government reduces exhibition and entertainment tax. Primary beneficiaries ought to be the freelance community which consists of writers, actors, technicians and directors who are not employed by a corporate. He stated that the current government is very receptive to their needs, and there’s a great likelihood that they’d offer some subsidies to fight the current situation.

Just like everybody else in the industry, Hats Off Productions MD & IFTPC chairman TV wing JD Majethia is counting on a certain amount of relaxation in the form of aid from the government. He believes the entertainment industry works in tandem with other sectors, hence it is important for all other businesses – be it tourism, or advertising – to perform better. Says he: “Advertising is the core sector for the television industry, as we are still dependent on ad revenue and not subscription. Major shooting of our shows is still happening in Mumbai, so I am hoping we get some subsidy for shooting in other states. This will in return inspire and encourage us to shoot at beautiful locations to boost the tourism industry in these states.”

For most industries post the pandemic, their pain points and growth expectations have converged, making this a landmark budget, remarks Reliance Entertainment's Big Synergy CEO Rajiv Bakshi. In his view, this budget can meet the universal goal for India Inc – boost consumer demand and income opportunities across both urban and rural markets. Along with some specific boosters for respective industries, Bakshi expects broader and deeper initiatives which will multiply the benefits for industries, in near-term and long-term basis. He concludes, “Additionally, I would applaud every initiative that encourages women employment and societal development.”

Suitable rebates and subsidies from the government would definitely act as a much-needed booster jab for productions for the big screen and small. It remains to be seen how the Centre lives up to these expectations. Until then, it’s all eyes on 1 February.  

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