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Local language content a major challenge, says Prasar CEO Vempati

NEW DELHI: Prasar Bharati chief executive officer Shashi Shekhar Vempati has stressed that India was very rich in content and with so many platforms it is important to capitalise on this.

Vempati said: “While native technology and artificial intelligence effectively guarantees impact, it is imperative to supplement it with creative minds, which exist in India and gives it an edge over the others. India possess a demographic uniqueness which places us ahead on the global map. What is lacking is an ecosystem to incentivise creators and insulate consumer experience.”

Thus the situation is right for good and meaningful content. But, unfortunately, he felt that more funds were being put into automation and distribution than on content.

Addressing the Create4India meet organised by Digital India Foundation, he said India had a major advantage in not only being the youngest but the largest democracy, and had an advantage over China as it had freedom of speech. The country was also a rich source of content with its ancient heritage.

Referring to Doordarshan, he said even BARC had shown that DD had a larger reach than any other channel, particularly taking rural viewers into account.

Describing Its DTH platform FreeDish as a “democratic tool”, he said it reached the far corners of the country. But, he said the time had come when DD makes programmes not just for India, but the world. He stressed the need for more content in local languages to reach out to the people.

Vempati also referred to outsourcing and in this context he said the new DD logo contest had brought back many new viewers to DD. But, marketing was as important and FreeDish was doing that for DD.

With convergence coming in, the emphasis on variety in content had become even more relevant.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman R S Sharma brought the regulators perspective, sharing his belief in a transparent mechanism of open consultation with the industry and the stakeholders, with accountability to the people at large.

He said the basic layer of connectivity is ‘robust’ but the layer of software has to be built. He complimented the start-ups which were producing rich content.

Foundation founder Arvind Gupta said though there were around 400 million viewers in the country, 86 per cent were watching content which was not in their local language.

He said the country had a net addition of 25 million smartphones per year and that emphasized the need for more content. There are around 30 GB of downloads per month.

Content creation was a very small portion of the $100 billion industry, he regretted. Gupta said, “The current digital disruption and technological change has redefined the limits of human ingenuity and innovation, a phenomenon accelerated with ‘convergence’ in technologies and modes of content delivery. This convergence necessitates an ecosystem approach towards the creative economy’s growth and future regulation.”

Bringing perspective to the content consumption trends in India, he reiterated the need for creating new content that is, affordable, understandable and socially relevant for the India market.

The panel discussions featuring industry stalwarts as Arun Thapar (EVP & Head of Content, AETN18 Media) and Vijay Nair (CEO, Only Much Louder) focussed on building a qualitative content driven framework, backed by digital disruption. Creating significant digital presence in today’s era is not a luxury of choice, but a ‘must have’, to unleash the creative potential. Addressing the key ingredients of a robust creative economy, the panel necessitated the need for 'humanising' content, to make consumption more compelling and generation defining.

The second panel, led by Pushpendra Rai (former director World Intellectual Property Organization), felt progressive policies backed by the right legislative intent is quintessential to contribute to the success of this sector, not just to foster creativity, but to help in sustenance and growth of the creative economy.

Author and entrepreneur Barkha Dutt brought forth the content creator’s perspective stating that advertising dependence in media will always play to the lowest common denominator – the masses. What needs to be addressed is, how India’s creative class will emerge with a revenue model and an audience willing to pay for content.

She wondered why Indians did not want to pay for news which enabled creative disruption without monetisation. She said she was open to the tyranny of the market if she was given a level-playing field. She also wondered why Indians were shy of personalising and marketing individual brands.

In 2016, the National IPR Policy brought the administration of copyright under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and highlighted the intrinsic linkages between commercialization, consumer choice and creativity. The relative contribution of India's creative economy to the GDP (0.9%), is less than most emerging market counterparts, she said.

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