Over-regulation can hurt M&E industry: Viacom18 CEO Sudhanshu Vats

At CII Big Picture, Sudhanshu Vats underlines the dangers of ‘over-regulating’ the M&E industry.

MUMBAI: Indian M&E industry is on the cusp of a “transformational growth” trajectory and can be a huge driver for PM Narendera Modi’ dream of USD 5 Trillion Indian economy, provided the sector is not over-regulated, Viacom18 group CEO and MD Sudhanshu Vats said today, in his address to CII Big Picture 2019.

Speaking on the topic ‘Create, Connect & Converge for Transformational Growth’ at the 8th edition of the CII Big Picture Summit in New Delhi, Vats warned against the dangers of over regulating a creative sector like M&E industry.

Drawing an analogy between overprotective parents and over-regulative governments, Vats said that regulators and policy makers today might be making the same mistake as was made by parents in 1990’s when ‘helicopter parenting’ was popular.

“It meant hovering around your children to ‘swoop’ in and help them in case they needed support. Over time, this led to over protective parents who actually stunted the ability of their children to transition into independent adulthood.”

 Addressing the policy makers, Vats added: “No one is doubting your intention, but the outcome could be different. This might be disastrous if you recall the…potential for transformational growth. ‘Over parenting’, like over regulating makes it impossible to ‘cut the (umbilical) cord.’ And there’s no way we can compete globally if we don’t cut the cord!”

Suggesting, instead, a ‘free range’ parenting model, Vats said, “The methodology behind this parenting style is to avoid hovering like a ‘helicopter parent’ by letting children experience life as it happens. We need our policy makers to replicate a similar philosophy of regulation for us. Let us be. Let the dust settle. Yes, we will make mistakes. Yes, we will be naughty at times. But we will learn. And that will make us globally competitive.”

Vats lauded the TRAI NTO, issued in February this year, but at the same time underlined the dangers of tweaking it frequently every now and then.

“We’ve just witnessed the most landmark reform in the world of Indian Pay TV broadcasting, ever. Of course, it’s not perfect – but tweaking it every month and quarter will have disastrous consequences. Maybe, in ‘free-range’ style, taking a break for say 2 years – and watching us closely – will be more beneficial for us in the long run,” he added.

Underlining the huge potential for growth in Indian M&E industry, Vats said that the sector, which currently provides employment to 5 million Indians, can employ more than 10 million people in next 3-4 years.

“Our export potential is USD 10 billion - more than 10x of what it is today – and we don’t need exhaustive, difficult to negotiate multilateral agreements to get there. We just need the freedom to create, connect and converge,” he said, adding “this is totally in sync with PM Modi’s vision of maximum governance and minimum government.”

Vats also commended the recent success of Andhadhun and Sacred Games in global markets and said that the Indian content has the potential to make ‘global dent’.

“We are more or less diaspora focused, and our addressable market comprises (mainly) South Asian diaspora, but recent successes of India digital originals Sacred Games and Andhadhun in China demonstrate that we have the potential to make a global dent,” Vats said.

CII Big Picture Summit is an annual gathering aimed at discussing, deliberating and decoding policy options to unlock the potential of our M&E sector.

The summit will be held on 14 and 15 November in Le Meridian, Windsor Place, New Delhi.

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